Baby-face boxer Michael Conlan battles to bronze as Katie Taylor limbers up
BOXER Michael Conlan fought his way to victory last night and secured Ireland's third Olympic medal in boxing in as many days.
The 20-year-old self-confessed "baby" of the Irish boxing team emerged victorious after he fought the biggest fight of his young life at the ExCel arena in London where his father and former coach John, his mother Theresa and brothers Brendan, Jamie and Sean cheered him on.
Meanwhile Katie Taylor was this morning preparing for her 2pm semi final fight against Manzuna Chorieva of Tajikistan, who beat China’s Cheng Dong 13-8 in their quarter-final.
Tickets are like gold dust as fans battle to be there for the popular Bray boxer who has paved the way for women in the sport.
Michael Conlan more than lived up to the "Believe the hype" slogan on his T-shirt that he wears at the gym in a nailbiting fight that had the opponents tied at the end of both the first and second rounds.
But in the end the judges awarded the 20-year-old west Belfast native a final score of 22-18.
He is now through to the semi-finals after securing a bronze medal after pummelling his rival, world number two flyweight Frenchman Nordine Oubaali, (26), in last night's quarter finals despite pundits labelling his opponent "a nuisance" and "all over him like a rash".
He now joins Bray native Katie Taylor and Mullingar's John Joe Nevin in the Irish winners' circle after they also secured bronze medals at the weekend.
There were scenes of unrestrained jubiliation last night at The Beehive Pub on the Falls Road in west Belfast, a short distance away from where he grew up and trained at the St John Bosco Boxing club where his father John Conlan, originally from Drimnagh in south Dublin, coached him and inspired him to seek Olympic glory.
"My father drummed the Olympic spirit into us," Mr Conlan Sr recently told the Irish Independent. "He loved it and I inherited that and tried to pass it on. Michael would definitely have picked up on that. That sense of tradition is hugely important to him."
And Michael certainly kept that spirit alive last night.
Gerard McClafferty, a coach at the boxing club, was among more than 100 ecstatic supporters at the pub who celebrated Michael's fantastic bout last night. "It's been 40 years since this club won the last Olympic bronze," he said.
"This club is 70 years old this year. We still have no toilets, or running water or heating or changing facilities but we're still getting champions," he beamed.
Michael Conlan qualified for the London Olympics as a teenager at the World Championships and is a very accomplished boxer despite his tender years, according to Irish team coach Billy Walsh, who last week said the biggest battle Michael faced was controlling his emotions. He started boxing at the age of seven and won his first national title at 11. His brothers Brendan and Jamie also held national titles at the same time.