Michael Conlan says he is ready to turn professional

Olympic champion Katie Taylor also ‘definitely thinking about turning pro’

Ireland’s Michael Conlan (blue) who will turn professional if he wins gold at next month’s world championships.

Ireland’s Michael Conlan (blue) who will turn professional if he wins gold at next month’s world championships.

 


As the career path of European bantamweight Champion John Joe Nevin snakes between the amateur and professional codes, Michael Conlan, the 21-year-old Olympic bronze medallist from London 2012 has stated that if he wins a gold medal at next month’s world championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan, he too will turn professional.

Not only will Conlan follow his brother Jamie, who is currently a professional and not represent Ireland in the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 but, he says, the entire Irish team picked for next month’s world championships have considered careers in the professional ranks.

Conlan was in Dublin yesterday having just completed an Irish training camp in Mayo, which Nevin did not attend. While his focus is on winning the gold medal, which is not out of the question for a boxer ranked third in the world, success there would bring to an end to his Irish career and badly damage Ireland’s hopes of further medals in Rio in three years time.

“Yes, 100 per cent, If I won gold at the worlds more than likely I’d be gone because the right offer would be there,” says the lightweight. “There would no point in waiting around because other offers in a year would fade. If the right offer was there after the world championships, I’d be gone. It’s only a medal. If a professional career is going to better me, it’s what I’m going to choose.

“We’ve all been talking about it. We’ve all been talking about the pros. Every single person on that team wants to go professional at some stage in their career. John Joe took the leap last year and came back. So I’m surprised he’s done it again but hopefully it works out this time. I’m happy for him and whatever he decides to do, he deserves whatever comes to him.”

To compound matters for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA), Olympic champion Katie Taylor also expressed her continued frustration about the lack of opportunity for her to fight competitively and also said that turning professional, which was off her radar after London, is now on it.

Since winning the gold medal last August, the elite European Championships were postponed and the permitted professional competition in which amateur boxers can compete, the WSB, has not been set up for women.

“My dad has been emailing back and forth to see what was happening with the WSB but he doesn’t seem to be getting any answers,” she said. “It should be fairly straightforward but this year has been a very quiet year. I’m trying to sit down and look at different options but I’m finding it hard to find the motivation if the WSB doesn’t go ahead.

“This year is a harder year for me. The European Union Championships were in a little tent, a really badly organised competition and then all these promises again about the WSB, I’m definitely thinking about turning pro.

“Women’s boxing feels like it’s taking a step backwards when it should have been pushing on after last year. It is a big decision to make and obviously I’d have to get a good contract as well. My dad’s going to make a few inquiries over the next few months. There were a few offers before but we’ll see what happens. Obviously next year is a big year if I did stay amateur, with the Europeans and the world, there’s a lot going on. We’ll see.”

If the IABA think there is little they can do both the Olympic champion and bronze medal winner Conlan, see areas where there could be vast improvement. The governing body are adding to and not allaying what appears to be a mood of deep frustration about how the boxers are treated and how their sport is governed.

“They try to do their best but they could be a lot better. It’s a work in progress,” says Conlan of the IABA. “Hopefully they pick it up now when they see John Joe is jumping out of frustration.

“The sports council are brilliant for us. They do everything for us and are really good to us. The Irish Boxing Board need to build up their publicity more and deal more with that kind of stuff. There should be a lot more home internationals and a lot more publicity around amateur international boxing because it is the best sport we have.

“If we got more recognition and backing for what we’ve done, then I think a lot more people would stay.”

The enduring irony is that the boxing talent is deep in Ireland and last weekend Kildare’s Willie Donoghue won a gold medal in the World Youth Championships. Donoghue will likely take his cue from Nevin, Conlan and Taylor, where the legacy of success looks increasingly like the best talent leaving the sport.