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Tuesday 2 September 2014

London's glitz is a long way from Michael's humble gym

Chris Kilpatrick

Published 09/08/2012 | 05:00

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Michael Conlan's meteoric rise to Olympic stardom came despite training in a gym with no running water or toilets.

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The 20-year-old Belfast fighter is tipped for a gold medal at the Games after sublime performances in the ring, including Tuesday night's gritty showing in his quarter-final bout, which guarantees Ireland at least a bronze.

He will fight Cuban Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana in the semi-finals tomorrow evening.

The glitz and glamour of London's Excel Centre, where the Falls Road man has been showcasing his talent, is a world away from his usual surroundings at the St John Bosco club.

The club -- set up in 1941 -- is currently based in Conway Mill. It has been a conveyor belt of talent for decades, with Conlan the latest graduate.

What makes the success of the young Belfast man and the boxing club more remarkable is the conditions in which its legion of members train.

Secretary and coach Geordie Boyd said his boxers had no toilets, showers or running water of any kind at the gym.

"If people saw the conditions this kid has trained in to get to the Olympics, it's unbelievable," the 71-year-old said. "I would say he is a real-life Rocky."

Michael Conlan joined the club at the age of 10 along with his older brothers Jamie and Brendan.

Remarkably, one year later, all three were Irish champions in their respective weight categories.

Mr Boyd described Michael as a "quiet wee lad".

Drained

"It would mean an awful lot to us if he could do it," he said.

"Everyone at the club is very proud of him and happy for Michael and his family."

Michael's proud father said he felt mentally drained and physically exhausted just watching his son's heroic victory.

John Conlan, who also coaches Michael, said that despite feeling the effects of an emotional rollercoaster during Tuesday night's epic tussle, he felt like he was floating on air as the scale of the victory sunk in yesterday.

"It's just a relief Michael has a medal after all the years of training," he said.

"I'm mentally drained, exhausted and physically shattered but at the same time I feel like I'm floating when I'm walking about."

He admitted to being overwhelmed by the support from home and among English fans.

"The English people have been fantastic and as soon as an Irish fighter comes out they will cheer."

Irish Independent

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