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Golden gloves Michael Conlan makes history on top of the world with AIBA World Championships win

By David Kelly

History Boy Michael Conlan stands at the summit of world boxing and it is where he plans to stay until the end of the Olympics in Rio next summer.

The 23-year-old became the first Irishman to strike gold at the AIBA World Championships when he outpointed tough Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in a rip-roaring bantamweight final in the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Doha, despite visiting the canvas from a textbook right hand.

In the 41-year history of these championships, only 10 Irishmen have won medals and Conlan is now hoping that Moate's Joe Ward can today join him in the status of gold medal winner as he bids for the light-heavyweight crown. But the Belfast man will forever be remembered as the one who was first to reach the promised land.

Conlan's success has been unrelenting over the past 15 months, winning Commonwealth Games gold in August 2014 before following up with European gold this summer and now the hardest of all amateur medals to win, the World crown.

Next summer at the Rio Olympics he will no doubt be favourite to stand a couple of steps up from where he stood on the podium in London.

"It feels just amazing, it hasn't sunk in yet that I am World champion and the first to do it and it won't sink in for a while. I'm just really looking forward to going home and being with my family," said Conlan who surprised many when he stood in the centre of the ring and traded with Akhmadaliev, which suited his opponent.

"I know people probably expected me to box more but I realised from the start that to make sure I got the gold I had to go toe-to-toe. It was the World final and I had to do whatever it took to win gold. I couldn't afford to allow him to catch the eyes of the judges with his aggression because I knew that was his style and he would just keep coming and coming at me.

"If it had been over more than three rounds then of course I would have boxed the ears off him and maybe I could have done more boxing and moving in the last round but in the first two rounds I had to stand and fight and I proved that I could beat him at close range or at distance.

I knew that it was going to be tough and he caught me with what seemed like the perfect punch to put me down at the end of the third round - my jaw still hurts!

"I was embarrassed because I had never been down before but you know if you want to be world champion you have to get through tough times. Once I got up my head was clear and I knew I had won it. Now it's about winning gold in Rio and I know I will."

Conlan was roared on by a large contingent of Irish supporters, many of whom had managed to get tickets due to his intervention yesterday morning.

"There's actually a GAA club over here, Qatar GAA, and they had told me they couldn't get any more tickets, so I emailed the world governing body and they managed to put more tickets on sale! The atmosphere was amazing, they really drove me on," he added.

Close friend and fellow Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes - not competing in Doha - was quick to hail the incredible achievement of Conlan.

"I am over the moon for Michael, I said before he went out there that he would go and win the gold," said Barnes. "I watch him train and I know the skills he has, he is far superior to everybody else in the bantamweight division and he has to be favourite to win gold in Rio.

"To become the first Irishman to win a World gold is just massive. It has to go down as one of the great Irish sporting achievements and for boxing here it is huge.

"There's going to be some buzz in our camp coming up to Rio, knowing the potential medalists we have and that we have a World champion in our team.

"I have to say I was a bit worried when he got put down but thankfully he got his head cleared and got the gold.

"The only problem now is that he'll torture me because he's won something I haven't!"

Belfast Telegraph


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