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Fists of fury as Michael Conlan beats his opponent... but not the judges

By Cate McCurry

Boxer Michael Conlan and his fans were furious after the Belfast man's Olympic dream was left in tatters as he made a controversial exit from Rio.

The Belfast boxer lost on a unanimous decision to Russia's Vladimir Nikitin in the quarter-finals.

The result left supporters angry, and Conlan accused boxing's governing body, the AIBA, of corruption from "the core right to the top". In an emotional outburst during a live television interview, the world-class sportsman said he had been "robbed" of his Olympic dream.

More: Tyson Fury: Michael Conlan has been robbed of a gold

Conlan's dad, John, told the Belfast Telegraph that Michael was "gutted", adding that he was too emotional to talk further about the defeat.

It was expected the west Belfast man would easily bring gold home to Northern Ireland.

A world champion in his division, Conlan vowed he would never box in an AIBA competition again and ruled himself out of future Olympics.

It marks a bitter end for Ireland's Olympics team, which will return without a boxing medal for the first time since 2004.

Minutes after Nikitin was declared the winner, fans rallied behind Conlan to express their disgust at the judges' scoring.

More: Conlan's anger can drive him to glory

Speaking to RTE after the fight, Conlan said: "AIBA cheats, f****** cheats. That's me, I'll never box for AIBA again - they're cheating b*******, they're paying everybody.

"I don't give a f*** for cursing on TV. That's the end of my Olympic gold. My dream has been shattered now. I have a big career ahead of me.

"These ones are known for being cheats, they have always been cheats. Amateur boxing stinks from the core right to the top.

"I wanted to go back with a gold medal to Ireland. I feel I'm going back a loser. I'm not a loser, I'm a winner."

In his first social media response following the fight, the boxer sent a Tweet to the Russian president's official Twitter account, saying: "How much did they charge you bro?"

More: Michael Conlan defeat: Decision was wrong... on so many levels

The boxer now intends to follow his brother, Jamie, into the professional ranks.

The AIBA hit back at Conlan's claims, describing them as without foundation. A spokesman said: "Michael is a current world champion and he came here with high expectations.

"His disappointment is massive, we can all understand that. It's his personal judgment.

"AIBA is striving for a fair, level-playing field. The idea is not to benefit one country towards another.

"These statements are groundless, but he's free to have his opinion."

Fellow Belfast boxer Paddy Barnes - who lost a similarly close decision in his first fight - described the AIBA as a "disgrace to sport".

His father, Patrick Barnes, last night made explosive claims that the Russian boxing camp knew Conlan was going to lose to Nikitin before the fight took place. He said: "We knew coming here this morning. The Russians told us that Michael wasn't going to get the contest. They told us that themselves. And we knew."

He went on the describe the defeat as the "ultimate robbery".

Paddy Graham, secretary and coach at Clonard Boxing Club - where Conlan is a member - said he was "disgusted" at the result. "It's blatantly obvious that he won - it's bribery, it's just bribery," he said.

"Michael is disgusted and told it like it is. He's world number one, so he knows what's going on in the background, as he hears things.

"He's coming home the same hero as he went out to us. He was robbed blind.

"When he became the world amateur champion, he was no doubt offered all sorts of money to turn professional.

"He's been training for this for a long time. He will never go back to the Olympics after this, why would he?

"The Russian was cut in the face and eye. I'm surprised he could fight. I am sickened by it."

Twitter also erupted in fury, with many slamming the fight as a "sham". One fan said: "Corruption is rife. The whole thing is a shambles."

However, the Olympic Council of Ireland (OCI) said: "While we understand and share Michael's disappointment with the decision today, the OCI does not condone his comments or conduct. We will evaluate internally before taking any action."

Belfast Telegraph

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