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How Michael Conlan is on course to seal revenge for Rio Olympics heartache

By David Kelly

Michael Conlan has revealed that he is on course for a showdown with bitter rival Vladimir Nikitin - the man who was handed the awful verdict which robbed the Belfast man of a possible gold medal at the Rio Olympics.

Nikitin looked a beaten man at the end of their bout in 2016 but was somehow declared the winner, a decision that led to Conlan's now infamous outburst.

Now, the Russian has teamed up with the same promotional outfit as the Belfast man and they are on track to meet on St Patrick's weekend at Madison Square Garden next year.

Conlan, who enjoyed a homecoming victory at Belfast's SSE Arena on Saturday night when smartly outpointing tough Brazilian Adeilson Dos Santos, could yet fight in October but the 26-year-old is assured of a 10-rounder on December 8 back at the Garden.

"St Patrick's Day next year would be a great time for that fight and it's a real possibility," said Conlan.

"I want every fight in Belfast after the experience I had on Saturday night but New York is special too and the fight with the Russian is one that I long for," added Conlan.

"No matter who I fight in my career, the one I really want to fight now is the Russian. It would be a fight when we would both go to war.

As for his tough eight rounds with Dos Santos, Conlan admitted he had to work hard so as not to allow the vociferous support he received distract him from his game plan against the Brazilian.

"The atmosphere was a career highlight, the way everybody was singing along. If I was to retire tomorrow, I've had two special nights - the debut in the Garden and the atmosphere here in Belfast.

"It's the best city in the world and I had to make sure I blocked out the fans so I didn't just slug it out with him. I'm just very honoured to have that kind of support from the best city in the world but I know I'm not the finished article just yet."

Conlan says his priority is now "being daddy" after months away from home and the birth of his second child possibly just a week away.

"I've been in training camp since Christmas, had three fights and been away from home the whole time so I need a break.

"We've just moved into a new house and Shauna has been doing everything, while heavily pregnant, so I need to be a daddy again, the chance to spend time with the family and then go again," said Conlan.

Tyrone McCullagh will be hoping for a mandatory shot at the British super-bantamweight title after seeing off Scotland's Joe Ham in the SSE Arena.

McCullagh was surprisingly dropped at the end of the third by a solid Ham right hand, but he regrouped well and found his groove to win the Celtic title.

Judge Steve Gray scored it 97-92, with Bob Williams and Phil Edwards both totalling 98-92 for McCullagh. Jazza Dickens and Martin Ward fight for the vacant British title on July 27.

"I'm just disappointed the droppage happened, but it's a learning experience," said McCullagh.

"Apart from the knockdown I don't think he won any other round but I know I have a lot more to give and it was my first fight on TV and my first title fight, so there was a lot of nerves and a lot of pressure and I'll be delighted tomorrow."

Belfast puncher Lewis Crocker extended his impressive KO run with a first-round stoppage of Poland's Adam Grabiec.

Crocker slashed home a left hook to the body and Grabiec was wincing in pain as referee Hugh Russell Jr waved the four-rounder off at 1-19 of the opener.

Crocker is only 21 but already could benefit from a step up in levels as he searches for an opponent capable of extending him rounds. The welterweight later made it clear that he wants to get on the Windsor Park show in August.

In the fight of the night, Jono Carroll defeated Declan Geraghty for the second time. Carroll dropped Geraghty in the third round and laid a consistent beating on his tiring foe until referee Bob Williams ended the all-Dublin affair in round nine as Geraghty struggled to stand up.

Padraig McCrory used his size advantages to good effect against English journeyman Harry Matthews, coming out with a 39-37 victory.

McCrory's jab was on point and the Belfast super-middleweight improved his record to 4-0.

Taylor McGoldrick had his hands full with Bangor brawler Casey Blair. John Lowey handed McGoldrick a 39-38 win.

Belfast Telegraph

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