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Redemption song rings the loudest for Conlan

 

Words of wisdom: Michael Conlan and Bob Arum chat at yesterday’s press conference ahead of the Nikitin fight
Words of wisdom: Michael Conlan and Bob Arum chat at yesterday’s press conference ahead of the Nikitin fight
David Kelly

By David Kelly

Michael Conlan exhaled a deep sigh and recalled returning to his dressing room in New York to find out he had found himself in as big a PR mess as he could have imagined.

The high of just having given his most polished performance as a professional in Madison Square had been swamped by an avalanche of criticism for ring entrance music that contained the lyrics 'ooh aah up the Ra'.

Yesterday he and the world's leading promoter Bob Arum confirmed his re-match with Russian Vladimir Nikitin on August 3 at the Feile in Falls Park. In recognition of that controversial loss to Nikitin in the Rio Olympics, Arum has dubbed the show 'Redemption'. Conlan's perspective on that night in MSG suggests it could well be a theme to be considered on a wider scale.

The Belfast man was adamant that the ring entrance music was supposed to be a version of the Celtic Symphony sung by Celtic football supporters which does not include the chant that caused so much outrage.

"It was a mistake and won't happen again. I didn't actually realise the lyrics until I got back to the dressing room," revealed Conlan.

"There was a different version to be played which didn't have that chanting in it. At the time all I heard was noise because it was the best atmosphere I had experienced - it blew the debut out of the water.

"When I got back to the dressing room and looked at my phone I just thought 'oh no'. People now think of me as a different person to who I really am. Maybe they will always think like that, I don't know.

"People think I'm some sort of bigot but I'm not.

"I was proud to win gold for Northern Ireland just as I was proud to win gold for Ireland at the World Championships and I have always had the ring announcer say that I am representing all of Ireland.

"I want everybody to come and support me... and even with Feile, maybe some have a negative view of that but it will be all-inclusive. It's for everybody to come and there's not going to be any chanting that night.

"I know the history of boxing in Belfast, about how it brings people together. I've been part of that and I want to continue to be part of that.

"What happened, happened. It was a mistake."

By the time August 3 comes around it will be just 13 days shy of three years to the day when Conlan flew into a rage after the judges handed Nikitin the decision and ended his gold medal dream.

"That night Michael wasn't up against Nikitin, he was up against Vladimir Putin!" quipped promoter Arum at yesterday's press conference.

The legendary American, who has staged some of the greatest fights in boxing history, signed Conlan on the back of his amateur exploits and made sure he also got the signature of Nikitin so one day the two could meet in a professional ring.

Conlan added: "Since August 16 lunch time in Brazil, I've wanted this fight. Now we meet again. It couldn't have worked out better.

"I could have had this fight in New York but having it here means so much more.

"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. 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."

Tickets go on sale on Friday.

• CARL Frampton will return to the ring on either August 10 or 24 in the States, promoter Bob Arum confirmed.

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