Golden boy Michael Conlan wins war to make Irish history
Forty-one years after the inaugural men's World Amateur Boxing championships Ireland has finally secured a gold medal at the tournament
Michael Conlan delivered on his promise to be the country's first Irish male world title holder though he had to survive a last-minute knock-down before fashioning a unanimous 3-0 win over his 20-year-old Uzbek opponent Murodjon Akhmadaliev to take the bantamweight crown.
After an enthralling contest in which Conlan dispensed with the game plan after about 30 seconds and went to war with his less experienced opponent, his arm was raised was victory after the judges voted 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 in his favour.
Surprisingly, even though the knock-down forced him to take a standing count, two of the judges still gave him the final round. He confessed to being embarrassed at ending up on the canvas for the first time in his career. But it was almost an accidental footnote on a night rich in history for the 23-year-old and Irish boxing.
His dream of ending his amateur career by being the World, European, Commonwealth and Olympic gold medallist lives on, though given the performance of Akhmadaliev he will pose a serious threat to Conlan's Olympic ambitions in Rio next summer.
"You can call me the McGregor of boxing. I predict everything I do and I'm coming through successful," beamed Conlan who suggested that he should now be labelled Mystic Mick!
World Champion, that sounds good thanks to everyone who has supported me from the start and right up to this point! Unreal amount of.. 1/3— Michael Conlan (@mickconlan11) October 15, 2015
Well wishes and good lucks I've had so much I can't keep up but I wanna thank all of you really appreciate it! Shoutout to @QatarGAA an..2/3— Michael Conlan (@mickconlan11) October 15, 2015
And all the irish who where in the arena last night unreal atmosphere, and last big John Conlan, all our work has payed off! #WorldChampion— Michael Conlan (@mickconlan11) October 15, 2015
"It's been my goal to be world champion, I didn't want to leave the amateurs without being world champion. I was going to leave but to be a world champion heading into an Olympic Games is some achievement," said Conlan who was on the verge of quitting the amateur game last March when it looked as if he wouldn't qualify for Rio from the WSB route.
Now, ironically, he has qualified through two different avenues but it was the right hook to his chin which preoccupied him most even after he had being presented with his gold.
"I was dazed when I was on the ground but as soon as I stood up I thought, 'There's no way he's beating me here, no way!'
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"I didn't even see it (the punch). I think it was a right hook and he just caught me just caught me sweet on the button," he explained.
Conlan acknowledged that the game plan wasn't to go to war but that's how the fight panned out.
"The game plan was to move, but as soon as the first bell went he was on me and I thought I wouldn't be able to keep it up for three rounds so it was time to go to war. That's what I done, I just changed it up.
"But I've always been able to go forward, and I was able to turn it around if I needed to. I needed to beat him at his own game. I came back to the corner after the first round and Billy said, 'so I take it we're going to war then?' and I said, '100 per cent!'
Conlan's only regret was that his father John who introduced him to the sport wasn't in Doha to witness his greatest moment in the ring. One suspects, however, there isn't a prouder father in Ireland today.
This was also the moment that the High Performance Unit has waited for since it was set up by Gary Keegan in 2002. It has been a gradual process reaching the top of the pile. Initially John Joe Nevin did the hard yards; winning bronze medals at successive championships; Jason Quigley took silver two years ago and now Conlan has the gold and, who knows, Joe Ward could grab a second tonight.