Bob Arum believes Conlan-Nikitin in the pros will be “absolutely huge”


Legendary promoter Bob Arum has promised Michael Conlan the chance gain Rio Revenge.

The Top Rank boss made Conlan’s controversial Olympic defeater Vladimir Nikitin a promotional stablemate and is already talking about a 2019 rematch.

Nikitin was adjudged to have beaten Conlan in the bantamweight quarter-finals of the Rio Games in one of the most shocking stories of the 2016 Olympics.

The Belfast featherewight worsened pre-existing cuts on the Russian to such a degree Nikitin was forced to pull out of the semi-finals – where he would have faced Shakur Stevenson, another new Top Rank stablemate.

Considering the circumstances surrounding the Belfast fighter’s Olympic exit and his reaction after – which impressed Arum massively – a repeat in the pro’s will certainly capture the imagination.

Speaking to Gavan Casey of The42, Arum confirmed he signed the Russian and revealed he will build toward a ‘huge’ rematch in 2019.

“We’ve already done that deal. I met the youngster, we’re going to give him a couple of fights here in the United States, and then we’re going to make a huge match with him and Mick,” said the New Yorker.

“It will be a chance for Mick to exact revenge for the terrible decision at the Rio Olympics. It’ll be huge. It’ll be absolutely huge.”

“But I want to get the kid [Nikitin] acclimated as a pro, first,” he added.

Signing a fighter with the express intention of building him as an opponent to be beaten may seem unsavoury to some. However, Arum intends to give the Russian, who has been sparring Leo Santa Cruz, a fighting chance.

He explained how “a friend of ours [Egis Kilmas], who manages Vasyl Lomachenko, will be managing this kid.”

The Komi puncher had a decorated amateur career and had beaten a younger Conlan in the 2013 Worlds, where he won silver, and was also a European bronze medalist.

It’s quite possible that Top Rank may use ‘Toxic’ Nikitin as an opponent for what is becoming Conlan’s annual New York St Patrick’s Day take over at Madison Square Garden.

However, there are fights to between now and then to focus on. Conlan’s next outing comes on the undercard of Jorge Linares v Vasyl Lomachenko on May 12th where he will face Spaniard Ibon Larrinaga.

Then it will be his Belfast homecoming at the SSE Odyssey Arena on June 30th for what is believed to be his maiden title fight.

The Falls Road fighter began his pro career on the U.S. West Coast, where Nikitin is now, but has since returned to this side of the Atlantic and has linked up with London coach Adam Booth.

Following his Olympic exploits, for which he was handsomely rewarded by the Russian government, Nikitin moved up to lightweight – where he was beaten in Dublin by Galway’s Pat Mongan. With day-before weigh-ins and the like, the 28-year-old will head back towards featherweight.

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