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Dublin: -1 °C Monday 18 November, 2019

Michael Conlan knows all about the man he must beat for a second Olympic medal

Russia’s Vladimir Niktin is no stranger.

Niktin, right, and Conlan met in the 2013 World Championship quarter-finals, the Russian taking a unanimous decision.
Niktin, right, and Conlan met in the 2013 World Championship quarter-finals, the Russian taking a unanimous decision.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

– Niall Kelly reports from Rio de Janeiro

MICHAEL CONLAN WAS mid-answer when a familiar face passed behind him in the media mixed zone.

“I’ll see you on Tuesday,” he said, turning to briefly congratulate Vladimir Nikitin, the Russian who now stands between him and the guarantee of a second Olympic medal (3.30pm Irish time).

These two need no re-introduction.

Since moving up to the bantamweight division, Conlan has collected major championship honours like they’re going out of fashion. Count them: Commonwealth Games gold; European Championship gold; World Championship gold; and ranked world number one at 56kg.

The list of opponents who have managed to get the better of him over the last three years is a short one, but Nikitin’s name is on it.

The two met in the quarter-finals of the 2013 World Championships in Almaty, Kazahstan, not long after Conlan had made the step up from flyweight and was still finding his feet among bigger company.

The Russian, two years Conlan’s senior, won a unanimous decision on his way to collecting silver but that, the Belfast fighter insists, doesn’t tell the whole story.

“You know what, if they were scoring it like they scored my World Championships the last time (2015), I probably would have got two 10-8 rounds against him,” Conlan said.

“He didn’t lay a glove on me but it was the first World Championships where they were doing 10-9 scoring and they seemed to go for aggression back then.

“They were just going for people going forward, no boxing at all.”

Before the Olympic draw was even made, Nikitin was on Conlan’s mind. On his first day in Rio, he was in the gym on the treadmill when he pulled up YouTube and the clip of that 2013 fight.

Source: AIBABoxing/YouTube

Conlan puts Tuesday’s medal showdown with the division’s eighth seed down to the Law of Attraction. This is the fight he wanted and the universe — or the AIBA draw officials, whichever way you want to look at it — duly obliged.

“I’m actually delighted I’m fighting him,” he said. “He takes a lot of punches and I’ll be there to give him a lot of punches.”

Ireland’s last man standing knows what he must now do.

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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