On August 3rd, Michael Conlan will be coming home. Not just for any fight, either, this is a big fight, on a personal level, for both fighters. It’s a grudge match, to be clear. And it will be held at an outdoor venue, Falls Park, during the Féile an Phobail (Festival of the people) celebration in West Belfast!
The Build Up
It wouldn’t be an understatement to suggest that these two boxers have a fiery rivalry. It isn’t quite Barrera-Morales or Leonard-Hearns, it’s a different kind of rivalry, but a rivalry, nonetheless. Of the two boxers, it’s clear that Conlan is the star. At only 11-0, Conlan has already headlined Madison Square Garden five separate times. He’s a star amongst the Irish and amongst boxing fans in general, but why is that?
Conlan had a lot of attention thrown his way during his amateur career just because of his ability to box, but that spotlight quickly grew after he boxed in the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. There, he rematched an old opponent that he had fought at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in 2013, Vladimir Nikitin. For the second time, Conlan came up short, and for the second time it was very controversial. Many fans from across the world felt that Conlan had dominated the contest.
In fact, Nikitin took so much facial damage during the fight that he was forced to withdraw entirely from his semi-final bout with Shakur Stevenson. Conlan clearly felt that the officials had torn his Olympic dream away from him by giving the decision to Russia’s Nikitin. But Conlan’s reaction to the decision, ripping off his shirt and showing all of the judges his middle fingers, arguably made him the big star that he is today. He would go on to sign with promotional giant Top Rank.
You can expect Falls Road to be a Cauldron of raucous support for Michael Conlan. This is his hometown, and his people know all too well about Conlan’s rivalry with the tough Russian he’ll be standing across from on August 3rd. The fight comes very early for Nikitin in terms of his pro career, he is only 3-0, his last fight being a Majority Decision win over the then 8-2 Juan Tapia on Conlan’s undercard.
But his extensive amateur career and two previous wins over Michael Conlan justifies the fight. Nikitin is 29 years old. He doesn’t have any time to waste. If this was a fight he wanted in the pro ranks, he knew he’d have to act sooner rather than later, and here we are. It should truly be a night to remember, even if only for the stunning amount of support we see from the Irish crowd as they attempt to cheer Conlan on to victory.
Both fighters are undefeated, both prospects, and if we are judging by their two amateur fights, there should be a lot of action involved. It’s only the second boxing card to ever take place at Falls Park, but it will most definitely be the biggest. August 3rd on ESPN+, mark your calendars!
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