On Saturday night at Madison Square Gardens New York, Michael Conlon finally beat his Russian arch nemesis Vladimir Nikitin.
Nikitin had beaten Conlan twice as amateurs, including three years ago when the Russian claimed a controversial win at the Rio Olympics. That quarter-final defeat back in 2016 denied the 28-year-old Irish fighter a medal and caused him to quit the amateur sport such was his disgust with the judges and their scores. The International Boxing Association slapped him with the maximum fine after Conlan branded them “cheats” in his post fight interview on RTE.
But the amateur game’s loss was Conlan’s gain as his victory over Nikitin gives him another clean sheet bringing his professional unbeaten record up to thirteen wins.
Conlan kept Nikitin at range during a cagey first round, both fighters tentatively sounding each other out in the opening three minutes.Nikitin tried to close down that ground in the second but Conlan continued to work off the southpaw stance. The Russian touched down in the third, but it was ruled a slip after he tripped over Conlan’s feet. Nikitin’s frustration started to boil over at the end of the fourth round, the Russian trying to rough up Conlan and getting a warning for use of the elbow. A similar pattern followed in the fifth and sixth rounds, with the only success for Nikitin coming when Conlan stood and traded on the inside. The end of the seventh saw Nikitin pin Conlan on the ropes and land a couple of decent blows, but they didn’t faze the Irishman as the bell sounded. By this stage of the fight Nikitin had landed with just 19 per cent of his punches, while Conlan was successful with 28 per cent.
All the three judges declared the Belfast boxer a clear victor, 98-92, 99-91, 100-90.
“It was a lot of pressure going into this fight,” Conlan said.
“I feel like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. But it’s nice to get it done.
“I’ve always said I’ve no ill-feeling towards Vladimir. Nothing was personal. I just needed to get that one back.
“That fight could have been very emotional because of what happened and what it caused for me. I just had to remain calm. We worked on that in training camp and it worked.”
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