Dream ends but sky the limit for classy Michael Conlan
A tumultuous day in the East End ended with a melancholy sigh for Team Ireland fans last night as Michael Conlan bowed out of the Olympic Games with defeat to Cuban teenager Robeisy Ramirez Carrazana.
The angel-faced Falls Road flyweight just couldn't handle Carrazana's sudden, scatter-gun explosiveness and was deemed to have lost all three rounds in a 20-10 verdict. Yet Conlan walks away with bronze and his defeat was just Ireland's fourth in 17 bouts at the ExCel Arena.
There is the faintest sense that Conlan never quite unwrapped his full repertoire at these Games, given the excitement he has generated in the High Performance unit.
That may seem a curious observation to make of a 20-year-old kid who, two years ago, could not win an Ulster Championship. But Conlan has a talent that makes purists drool.
To be fair, he was beaten by a better man here, Carrazana oozing the confidence of a man who feels destined for the biggest stages in world boxing.
The Cuban scarcely threw a punch in the opening minute, then suddenly erupted with a furious barrage. Both men were boxing as southpaws and most of Conlan's punches were connecting only with leather or elbow.
In the last minute of the round, Carrazana came storming forward, dropping some heavy shells and there were few complaints from the bleachers as he took the round 6-3.
Conlan fared better in round two though, again, making clean contact with the Cuban was proving problematic. There is a view in the High Performance gym that Conlan will become much better with more work on his technique.
He lost that second round 3-4 to slip four points adrift, the customers' faith in the judges scarcely helped by the big screen flashing the Indian judge's score as 13-2 to Carrazano and the Brazilian's assessment of a 4-4 draw!
No Matter, the fight was slipping from Conlan now. He launched an early attack in the third round, chasing the Cuban around the ring. But a counter-punch seemed to hurt him and, as Conlan turned his back, the Cuban launched a furious attack, pinning him to the ropes and landing a barrage of six clean shots to the Irishman's head.
Conlan did well to stay on his feet, but the referee called a standing count, loading the arithmetic even further in Carrazana's favour. From there, it was a forlorn chase. The heart that earned Conlan a last-round victory over Frenchman Nordine Oubaali in the quarter-final came surging to the fore again, but he was chasing shadows.
Afterwards, he tearfully admitted there had been a gulf in class. "I was wasting a lot of punches on his gloves when I should have been trying other stuff," he said. "But he was a lot better than me. I found it very hard to get through his defence."
Irish head coach, Billy Walsh, reminded the media of how far Conlan has now travelled. "Look this kid's story is amazing," said Walsh. "He never boxed under-age for Ireland and has only two years of international competition behind him. Yet, he's going home with an Olympic medal having come here probably just hoping to give a good performance."