Irish boxer Michael Conlan edged closer to fulfilling his prophecy of claiming gold in Rio by easily dispatching Armenia’s Aram Avagyan by a unanimous decision to progress to the Olympic quarter-finals.
Four years on from winning bronze at the London Olympics, the Belfast bantamweight has been very vocal about collecting the highest honour at this summer’s Games and his opening performance showed that he has brought his A game to Rio.
Conlan opened his campaign against a tough Armenian who proved hard to hit and remained competitive throughout, however, the Belfast boxer worked his opponent out quickly enough and eased to victory while also getting a good workout in the process.
Barely ten seconds had elapsed after the opening bell before Conlan struck, landing a strong head-shot to let Avagyan know that he was facing the reigning world champion.
The Armenian responded by maintaining a very high guard throughout, allowing Conlan to keep his head high and hands low as he studiously watched his opponent before picking his punches, enjoying plenty of success without being troubled.
The judges were in agreement, with all three scorecards handing the opening round to Conlan 10:9.
Avagyan proved a bit trickier in the second round but Conlan was happy to stand and trade punches as the fight threatened to become a bit of a brawl.
Conlan boxed clever, however, and made sure to keep the brawling to a minimum, showing great movement to elude his advancing opponent who momentarily pinned the Belfast man back on the ropes.
Both boxers scored throughout the bruising three minutes but the cleaner work came from Conlan and he again impressed the judges, taking the round on all three cards to open a clear lead in the contest.
Avagyan needed to produce something special in the final round and went on the attack from the opening bell.
But Conlan again happily stood toe-to-toe and dominated his opponent in the middle of the ring with the world champion responding with real intent and his powerful blows took the wind out of the Armenian’s fading challenge.
Conlan also began to blow a bit in the final minute of that closing stanza as he expended a lot of energy to nullify Avagyan’s attempts to turn the fight in his favour.
But that intensity will stand to the Belfast man who eased down through the gears in the final minute to take the contest and Conlan will now look forward to the quarter-finals, where victory can secure another medal for the reigning world champion.