Michael Conlan’s Olympic outburst shames amateur boxing into action
Sports review of 2016: Conlan beats Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin but loses the fight
Michael Conlan: “AIBA cheats, they’re f**king cheats. That’s me, I’ll never box for AIBA again, they’re cheating b****rds, they’re paying everybody. I don’t give a f**k for cursing on TV.” Photograph: Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Riocentro, Rio, August 16th
Michael Conlan’s Olympic dream dies in Rio
Rio seemed like a chain reaction of disappointments with two sharp encouraging spikes on the water. It began with an adverse drugs test from the ring, was followed by the arrest of OCI president Pat Hickey and circular in nature, leaked back to the boxing arena as Irish medal prospects began to tumble one by one.
To distil the feeling of malaise that crept though the Irish camp after light flyweight Paddy Barnes and reigning Olympic champion, Katie Taylor had bid farewell, Michael Conlan, Ireland’s world champion bantamweight stepped up to his medal fight in the quarter-final against Vladimir Nikitin.
Twelve minutes later he became the touchstone for all that was wrong in international boxing at the Olympic Games.
Quite simply he beat Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin but lost the fight. The referee demonstratively mopped blood from Conlan’s face, although it was not his blood but that of Nikitin.
Conlan changed his style during the fight, threw more landing punches and it should have been stopped. But it was the Russian hand that went up. All three scoring judges voted against the Irishman.
Conlan’s reaction was volcanic. He called the amateur boxing federation and IOC corrupt. He condemned the referee’s and judges as cheats and he verbally abused officials as he left the auditorium.
The purity and vehemence of Conlan’s attack on the integrity of his sport made headlines around the world. The expected reaction from boxing was that they would hand out a lengthy ban or even a life suspension.
But nothing came. ‘Corrupt from top to bottom,’ became one of Conan’s most memorable accusations. It was the death of his dream and his Belfast fury strafed the organisation.
“AIBA cheats, they’re f**king cheats. That’s me, I’ll never box for AIBA again, they’re cheating b****rds, they’re paying everybody. I don’t give a f**k for cursing on TV.
His outburst triggered no official sanction until the middle of December when a meaningless fine was issued. Instead six nameless judges were suspended from the competition. The AIBA said they were ‘not up to the level they expected.’
Two months later in October the AIBA held a three-day meeting in Lausanne, Switzerland, to reflect on 2016. Working towards a better way of handling Tokyo 2020, they suspended all 36 referees that took part in Rio.
Conlan’s outburst had served some useful purpose and shamed amateur boxing into some action. But at what a cost. Nikitin withdrew from his next bout due to a bad cut.
Low Light: The worst moment was not quite a moment but a collection of moments. Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan, Joe Ward and Paddy Barnes crashing out of Rio. Ireland’s golden generation of boxers reaching a despairing end point.