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Conlan's rise out of the wreckage of a troubled adolescence can serve as an inspiration to other disillusioned young men

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 28/05/2016

Michael Conlon
Michael Conlon

Looking at Michael Conlan today it is difficult to imagine how life could have turned out so differently for the west Belfast boxer. He is the epitome of a highly trained athlete, the first Irish boxer to win a world amateur title and heading for the Olympics in Rio with a better than most chance of winning gold.

Yet less than a decade ago the 24-year-old was running with a bad crowd, dabbling in under-age drinking and drug abuse and engaging in anti-social behaviour. Several of his former friends have committed suicide as their lives spiralled downwards out of control.

Boxing he freely admits was his salvation, giving him a purpose in life, instilling discipline in him and setting him goals.

To many of us boxing is a brutal sport but Michael is not the first to find beauty in it, an escape route from a troubled life and the road to fame and possibly riches in the professional ranks.

His candid interview in today's newspaper will come as a surprise to many people, not least his own family who were unaware of his teenage behaviour and who would have reacted quite severely to him had they known.

Yet the Michael Conlan today is literally a different person, a man whose ambition to succeed is fuelled by the desire to make a good life for himself, his partner and young daughter.

And the current Belfast Telegraph Sports Star of the Year is simultaneously a magnificent role model for other young men who have little hope in their lives. He has shown that anything is possible if talents are harnessed properly and there is a will to change.

Boxing in Northern Ireland has always been a cross-community sport with participants attracting fans from every section of society. Michael comes across as a well-balanced mature young man, proud both of his Irishness and his birthplace and equally happy to represent Northern Ireland and Ireland. And his supporters will be hoping that he ends up on the podium in Rio with gold hanging from his neck.

Belfast Telegraph

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