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Michael Conlan's anger can drive him to glory

Editor's Viewpoint

Michael Conlan's expletive-ridden comments, made after his loss in the quarter-finals of the Olympic boxing, showed the depth of his anger at the judge's decision.

Here was a young man who had devoted his entire boxing career to date to winning an Olympic gold medal - the ultimate prize in amateur boxing - and saw that opportunity snatched away from him.

His loss has been described as a controversial decision. That is to underplay its unfairness. Quite simply, the decision was wrong. Michael Conlan was the clear winner.

That is not a judgement made through green-tinted glasses, but rather the verdict of clear-eyed boxing experts, including those who have fought at a high level, those who have trained boxers and those who have been involved in the sport for a long time.

Their judgement is equally unanimous as that of the judges who astonishingly awarded the bout to Conlan's Russian opponent.

Conlan is a credit to the sport and an excellent ambassador for his native city of Belfast. He is the first boxer from this island to become a world champion in amateur boxing, and there was every expectation that he would have also won an Olympic gold. He became a champion through talent allied to an immense amount of hard work. Fans never see the hours spent in the gym or pounding the roads or lifting weights, but it takes years of dedication to become as good as him.

Little wonder then that today he is furious and determined to turn his back on amateur boxing. Few would blame him.

Boxing is a sport that is often mired in controversy, and the amateur game, even at the Olympics, is pockmarked with indefensible decisions. At Rio, another Russian won gold in boxing to the astonishment of all at ringside.

At the Rome Games in 1960, judges were sacked for incompetence, and boxers through the ages have refused to leave the ring due to being on the losing side of blatantly wrong decisions. Perhaps the greatest injustice was in Seoul in 1988 when Roy Jones Jnr was robbed of his gold medal on a split decision despite twice flooring his Korean opponent, who was also warned twice by the referee for infringements.

Perhaps that story may point to the future for Conlan. Jones went on to a glittering professional career and Conlan has every chance of doing the same. One day, he may thank those Olympic judges.

Belfast Telegraph

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