Bloodied Michael Conlan proves that he's a cut above the rest at Commonwealth Games
Bloodied but unbowed, Michael Conlan showed the way for the Northern Ireland boxing team.
Opening up the entire boxing competition at the Commonwealth Games at 1pm, the Belfast man started his campaign for gold with a unanimous points victory over Nauru teen Matthew Martin in the bantamweight division.
The fight was not without its drama as Conlan suffered a cut to the head in the third and final round which led to blood streaming down his face.
After a quick patch up and check from officials to ensure the cut wasn't serious, Conlan finished the job.
The 19-year-old from the tiny island country in the south Pacific was a game boy, but the Olympic bronze medallist from London 2012 always had too much class and turned up the power in the second round which led to two standing counts for his opponent.
Had the clash of heads not happened, with Conlan sensibly keeping his distance for the remainder of the fight, the Northern Ireland boxer was on course to end the contest with a knockout.
"I was a little worried about the cut because I thought it was my eye when the blood was trickling down, but with it being on top of my head it was no problem," said Conlan, fighting without a headguard, like all the other male boxers in Glasgow.
Amateur Boxing's world governing body AIBA voted to abolish headguards for men in the wake of the London Olympics.
Conlan's view: "I loved fighting with the headguard but cuts are going to be dangerous when you turn professional so you are better off learning now. Boxing is just going to have to get used to it."
On the fight itself, he said: "It was handy enough. In the first round I found my distance and in the second I knew when I was jabbing him in the face I was hurting him and I could see he didn't like it. When I started to work his body he definitely didn't like it. I am happy to get the win and now I can move forward.
"I was a little worried about my condition because I haven't been in the ring since March but I showed I was fit enough to go three rounds and this fight will make me stronger. It was a good test and good warm up fight for me."
Given a great welcome in Glasgow by the fans, Conlan added: "It was a brilliant reception when I was entering the ring. For a minute it felt like I was back in London two years ago.
"I wanted to put on a good show and stop the guy but unfortunately I got cut, otherwise I would have stopped him."
Next up for Conlan in the last 16 on Monday is highly rated Indian Shiva Thapa.
It would have made a fantastic final but such are the perils of an open draw format.
"I'm back in the ring on Monday fighting against an Indian who is number three in the world and I'm number two so I think that will be my toughest test in the Games," said Conlan.
Asked if it would be akin to a gold medal bout, Conlan said: "All the fights will be hard but that one will be a really tough battle. If I come through that it will really set me up."
In Delhi four years ago at the Commonwealth Games, Conlan was left in tears after an early exit. This time around he is after gold.
"Gold is the only medal I want," he said. "I don't want silver and I don't want bronze. I will throw them away if I get them.
"On my day if I come in in the right frame of mind nobody is going to beat me. Everybody has their off days, but I'm not going to have an off day at these Games."
Conlan says the Northern Ireland boxers are buzzing. You can tell.
Last night Ballymena welterweight Steven Donnelly defeated his Pakistan opponent Hasan Asif by knockout in 30 seconds.
Donnelly said: "I trained tremendously hard for this and as you saw in the first round it all paid off.
"I'm not going to get carried away though, it's only the first fight."
Donnelly fights Tonga's Oscar Finau on Monday.
Ruairi Dalton (52kg) comfortably beat his Zambian opponent Christopher Katanga with a unanimous decision from the judges, which sees him through to fight tomorrow in the last 16 against Tanzania's Ezra Paul Mwanjwango.
"It's good to get in there and get the win, that's the main thing," he said.
"There is a lot of pressure, you want to keep on winning and you don't want to let anyone down which spurs you on. I'm going for gold.
"The support from the crowd was brilliant, it felt like home," said Dalton.