Irish boxer Michael Conlan has been controversially eliminated from the Olympic Games in Rio after losing his bantamweight quarter-final bout to Russian Vladamir Nikitin.
The judging of Olympic boxing again came to the fore as early as the first round when a classy opening three minutes from the world champion was nullified by all three scoring judges, who remarkably awarded the opening stanza to the Russian.
Conlan got word of the decision and, to his credit, came out and totally changed his approach to attempt to impress the judges with a full-on aggressive style and hammered Nikitin with an excellent display of power hitting, sending the already-jaded Russian backwards.
The world champion was duly awarded the second round but then a similar approach to the third round, which Conlan undoubtedly dominated, was totally ignored by all three judges who again awarded the round to the Russian to hand Nikitin the decision to the absolute dismay of the Belfast man.
Afterwards, a disgusted Conlan was unable to contain his emotions saying “They’re cheating bastards, they’re paying everybody.”
“I was here to win Olympic gold my dream’s been shattered now,” Conlan added.
“But you know what, I’ve a big career ahead of me and these ones, they’re known for being cheats and they’ll always be cheats.”
“Amateur boxing stinks from the core to the top.”
Conlan: “I’m not a loser, I’m a winner, and today just shows how corrupt this organisation is.” He then stated “I’ll never box for the AIBA Boxing again, they’re cheating bastards.”
Conlan bounced into the ring and was again greeted by a big-screen shot of his daughter Luisne watching from the crowd, and again the Belfast fighter looked inspired as he opened the fight using his long jab to keep the aggressive Russian at bay, while scoring at will off the back foot.
Nikitin, to his credit, kept coming forward with his head down and hands up trying to land, but Conlan used his skill and strength to drag the guard down and score at will. An old wound opened on the side of the Russian’s head and that would become a feature for the remainder of the stop-start fight.
But the decision from that opening round set the scene for the eventual outcome as somehow, all three judges went with Nikitin and suddenly the task became an uphill one.
Word appeared to come through to the Irish corner that their fighter was down and Conlan’s style changed early in the second round as the world champion went on the front foot to fight fire with fire against the full-on Russian.
And if Conlan boxed his way through the first round, he went into full fight mode for the remainder of the second round and absolutely hammered Nikitin at every opportunity. The blood was now splattering all over each boxer and the referee sent both boxers to their respective corners to get cleaned up.
The jaded Nikitin undoubtedly used these breaks to get his breath back, while a pumped-up Conlan kept the pressure on throughout and continued with the aggressive style right until the bell.
Back to the judges and this time, Conlan gave them no choice but to award the round to the world champion, and so parity was restored with all three awarding the Belfast man a 10:9 round.
So into Round 3 and by now Conlan was fighting at a level rarely needed by the world champion but he was well aware of how the judging has been so random at these Games after last night’s heavyweight final was controversially won by Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko who was bizarrely awarded gold in his final bout with Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit.
Conlan kept the tempo high and the accuracy consistent as the jaded Russian again kept coming but was offering little.
Conlan stayed close in, almost leaning on his weakening opponent driving punch after punch, alternating between head and body. Nikitin was scoring from time to time but never close to the rate which he was receiving.
That style of the Russian paid dividends in the opening round, obviously impressed the judges once before, but as that final bell tolled, the decision would surely be with Conlan in the red corner.
The Belfast man stood in the middle of the ring alongside the referee with arm raised as he expected his other one to follow.
But the arm hoisted was that of Nikitin, and disbelief soon turned to anger as Conlan let his feelings known, both by voice and gesture as he eventually exited an amateur ring for what will surely be the last time.