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Paddy Barnes and Rio 2016 Russian rival Nikitin join Conlan on St Patrick's Day card at MSG

The Belfast man’s Olympic ‘conqueror’ wants vindication after they share a bill at Madison Square Garden this month.

Rio Olympics opponents Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin are on a collision course in the professional ranks.
Rio Olympics opponents Michael Conlan and Vladimir Nikitin are on a collision course in the professional ranks.

MICHAEL CONLAN’S OLYMPIC conqueror Vladimir Nikitin will join the Falls Road featherweight on Top Rank’s now-traditional St Patrick’s Day Conlan bill at the Hulu Theater in New York’s Madison Square Garden.

Russia’s Nikitin eliminated Conlan at the quarter-final stage to claim bronze at Rio 2016, but the verdict given to him was among the most controversial decisions in Olympic boxing history, sparking a furious reaction from both Conlan at centre-ring and observers around the world.

Conlan’s middle-fingered salute to the AIBA judges at ringside instantly became one of the defining images of the 2016 Games.

Michael Conlan following his defeat to Vladimir Nikitin Michael Conlan addresses the judges after his highly controversial defeat to Vladimir Nikitin at Rio 2016.

The pair have been on a collision course in the professional ranks ever since Conlan’s promoters, Top Rank, signed Nikitin to their stable last year.

The Irish former amateur world champion [10-0, 6KOs] will face Mexico’s Ruben Garcia Hernandez [24-3-2, 10KOs] in the 10-round Patrick’s Day headliner at MSG having twice previously topped bills at the same venue on the same weekend, painting the 5,000-capacity Theater green on each occasion.

Nikitin, 2-0 as a pro and now based in Oxnard, California, will square off with the 8-2 Juan Tapia in a six-rounder on the Belfast man’s undercard, and hopes victory will lead to a chance for vindication against Conlan later this year.

“The fight I want after I take care of business on 17 March is Michael Conlan,” he said.

He wants revenge, and I want to show everyone that I was, and still am, the superior fighter. I respect Michael and his team. While there is no bad blood outside the ring, we have unfinished business inside the ring.

Added Conlan: “Nikitin is a rival from the 2016 Olympics and clearly someone who I look forward to fighting in the professional ranks. This is the second time we’ve fought on the same card, and I look forward to seeing his progress as a professional.”

Michael Conlan in action against Vladimir Nikitin Conlan inflicted so much damage upon Nikitin that the Russian couldn't fight in his Olympic semi-final.

Conlan’s close friend and former Irish team-mate Paddy Barnes, a three-time Olympian and two-time bronze medalist at the Games, will also feature on the bill as he begins his comeback bid from a stoppage defeat in his maiden world-title tilt in Belfast last year.

Barnes, 5-1, 1KO, will face Texan Oscar Mojica, 11-5-1, 1 KO, in a six-rounder at bantamweight.

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