Michael Conlan exacts revenge on amateur nemesis Vladimir Nikitin

Anthony Cocks

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Featherweight contender Michael Conlan 13-0 (7) got his revenge on amateur nemesis Vladimir Nikitin 3-1 by winning a wide 10-round unanimous decision at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Saturday night.

The 28-year-old from Belfast in Northern Ireland boxed effectively from the outside for the first half of the fight to bank the early rounds before switching up to engage in some exciting inside action in the later rounds.

Judge Bernard Bruni had Conlan winning every round 100-90, while judge Kevin Morgan awarded him the fight 98-92 and judge Pasquale Procopio had him leading 99-91.

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There was a lot of history behind the matchup. Nikitin holds two victories over Conlan in the amateurs, including a win in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Rio Olympics that was widely regarded as an out-and-out robbery.

Responding to the result at the time, Conlan raised his middle finger in the direction of the judges to show his disgust and delivered a strongly worded live television interview to RTÉ, accusing officials in amateur boxing of corruption.

Now meeting for the first time as pros, Conlan showed his superior seasoning in the punch-for-pay ranks as he kept Nikitin at bay with long shots from the outside for the first four rounds.

The 29-year-old Russian had some success in round five, six and seven, while the eighth was fought largely in the trenches with Conlan suffering a cut over his right eye late in the round. Conlan ripped into Nikitin’s body in the ninth and continued to control the action in the 10th.

“It was a lot of pressure going into that fight. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders… it’s nice to get it done,” Conlan admitted after the fight.

“I’ve always said I had no ill feeling towards Vladimir, I just needed to get that one back.”

The fight was on the undercard of the world championship doubleheader featuring the IBF lightweight title clash between Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez and the WBO welterweight title bout between Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford and Egidijus Kavaliauskas.

Conlan, the number one contender to Shakur Stevenson’s WBO 126-pound belt, said he felt he was 12 months away from a world title shot.


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