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Michael Conlan eager to banish demons of 'worst day' in amateur career with Vladimir Nikitin rematch

Belfast boxer Michael Conlan with Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, at today's press conference (Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)
Belfast boxer Michael Conlan with Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, at today's press conference (Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker)
Adam McKendry

By Adam McKendry

Michael Conlan says the chance to rewrite the wrong done to him in the Rio Olympics is his main motivation when he meets rival Vladimir Nikitin in August.

The mouthwatering rematch between the two featherweights will take place in the Falls Park on August 3 as part of Feile an Phobail, the first time the pair have met since that Olympic quarter-final.

On that occasion, the Russian won the last-eight tie due to a highly controversial judges' decision, which sparked questions over the integrity of the officials.

But now the pair will get a chance to set the record straight when they meet as professionals in a match that will see one boxer lose his undefeated record.

For Conlan, he's eager to show that he should have won in Rio, and insists that a victory will allow him to put all that distraction behind him and push on.

"This is the fight I've wanted since that day, August 16th 2016, which was the worst day in my amateur career and is a wrong that needs to be wrote the right way this time," said the 27-year-old.

"I'm really looking forward to it, it's probably the first fight I've been able to get up for because it's the only fight I've wanted since then.

"This has been something that's been looming over my head since I turned professional, and it's what my amateur career will be remembered for. The fact I can take that away and fix it, I'm very grateful to my management team MTK and my promotion team Top Rank, and obviously Feile an Phobail.

"This will put my amateur career to bed and let me move on to bigger and better things as a pro and achieve everything I set out to achieve."

With 11 professional wins, all convincing and six of which came by knockout, Belfast man Conlan is likely to start the bout as the favourite against his rival.

When you factor in what will be a hugely partisan crowd in his favour, it only increases the odds that this will be a happy homecoming for the former Commonwealth gold medallist.

This will be only his second fight in Belfast - he defeated Adeilson dos Santos last year in the capital - and Conlan cannot wait to fight in front of his hometown fans.

"I was there (at the Feile) watching the concerts last year and the atmosphere was unbelievable. I've been to the Feile nearly every year and it's a fantastic event, to be able to do it is unbelievable," he said.

"It's my back garden, I probably fought in Falls Park growing up as a kid and now I get to fight in Falls Park against one of my biggest rivals!

"This is something I'll be really proud of, to box in west Belfast - it doesn't happen much, most fights happen in the Odyssey or somewhere else, so the fact it's in west Belfast, where I'm from, I'm very proud."

Legendary boxing promoter Bob Arum travelled to Belfast to promote the fight, the Top Rank executive taking his place at the head of this afternoon's press conference.

As well as confirming that Carl Frampton will box in the United States later this year, Arum was very complimentary of the Northern Irish fans and insists they're getting a top fight in August.

"(Nikitin) believes that, in a boxing contest, he will be the winner over Michael. He really believes that, and he's a very aggressive fighter," revealed Arum.

"But maybe he's remembering Michael as an amateur, because Michael as a professional has really improved, he's a tremendous fighter and I think on August 3rd we'll have a real treat, we'll have a great main event and Michael will show you what he's made of."

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