first_imgDespite the focus of professional glory largely dominating his competitive mindset, Belfast’s Michael Conlan cannot shake the disappointment of the 2016 Olympics just yet. There, in Rio, Conlan was much-fancied to collect a medal with gold appearing a clear possibility, but his last-16 exit to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin brought tears, first of disappointment, then of anger, as the eliminated Irishman bitterly demonstrated the controversial result by gesturing his middle finger to the ringside judges who pushed the button that ultimately trampled over his lifelong dreams. A professional odyssey beckoned, but Nikitin, the eventual bronze medal recipient, would soon find his way onto Conlan’s radar again.Join DAZN and watch Canelo vs. Jacobs on May 4 Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearIn the night’s co-feature main event, Luis Collazo, a hard-hitting New Yorker who seems to have been amongst the welterweight rankings forever, kept his career relevant with a deserved split-decision nod over Canada’s Sam Vargas. The latter displayed decent credentials at the backend of last year when flooring Britain’s Amir Khan, but he was beaten to the punch far too often against Collazo. This victory is unlikely to give any of the world champions at 147 pounds sleepless nights, but it should grant Collazo another decent payday in the near future against another fellow contender.In the evening’s fight of the night, Paddy Barnes, a former amateur colleague of Conlan, lost for the second fight in a row — this time in more disastrous circumstances, as it’s a loss that nobody saw coming. Last time out, Barnes was defeated by Cristofer Rosales when challenging for the Nicaraguan’s WBC belt. Sunday night, against the unheralded Oscar Mojica, Barnes endured a torrid time almost from the opening bell. With his nose bleeding profusely from the first exchange of the fight, Barnes neglected his experience and skillset and just fought Mojica head on. He was dropped in the second round, which the referee incorrectly called a slip, but he did rally back in the second half to make things interesting at the final bell. After a lengthy wait, Mojica was declared the winner via split decision, before Barnes hinted that retirement could be the best option moving forward. For the third year running on St Patrick’s Day, Conlan was the headline attraction at Madison Square Garden’s glorious basement as the Hulu Theater resembled something of a fairy-tale forest, as green illuminated the entire building. Aiming to move to 11-0, Conlan went through his wide repertoire of assaults as he put in a workmanlike performance to consistently deter the mild threat of Mexico’s Ruben Hernandez. Claiming a shutout on all three scorecards, Conlan will undoubtedly feel elated at getting further rounds in, but it was earlier in the show where the real story occurs as Nikitin moved to three wins from as many contests with a hard-fought victory over Juan Tapia. This old-school promotional trick wasn’t performed by accident, Conlan’s quest for revenge against his vested nemesis is about to get real.Although slightly teased in the post-fight interview, Conlan’s desire to reverse his Summer Games setback should occur in 2019. It could even be next.Nikitin didn’t set the world on fire in his win over Tapia, but despite one official scoring the bout a draw, the European fighter was largely in control — even if his work appeared rushed and somewhat sloppy. Those handling the career of Nikitin know their fighter better than anyone, but on the form he has demonstrated thus far since relinquishing the colors of his home nation in the unpaid code, he barely resembles a New York State Golden Gloves winner, yet alone an Olympic bronze medallist. Conlan has so much more to gain from settling the score, and on their respective professional journeys up to now, it’s the Irishman who looks the more accomplished.As well as turning his gaze to Nikitin, Conlan will also be donating a curious stare to the business end of the talent-laden featherweight division as Top Rank, his promotional group, bolstered their stable at 126 pounds earlier on St. Patrick’s Day, with the signing of former world champion, Carl Frampton. With Oscar Valdez and Shakur Stevenson already on Bob Arum’s books, plus Josh Warrington’s promoter Frank Warren enjoying a fruitful relationship with the Las Vegas juggernaut, Conlan will be more than aware that he’s in the right place if he wants to test himself at the dangerous end of the scale. If a fight with Nikitin fails to materialize then a showdown with any of the aforementioned names, preferably this time next year, may go some way to easing his Olympic pain.last_img

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