We saw raw anger immediately after the defeat to Vladimir Nikitin [3(0)-0] and then the joy when signing a contract with Top Rank that had roots in the fingered outburst, but missed the emotional pain that came in between for Michael Conlan [12(7)-0].
The Belfast fighter can still get emotional now when he privately reflects on the fact he was robbed of his childhood dream by corruption – and revealed in revenge fight week, that he broke down crying after he failed to get the result against the Russian, despite beating him up so badly he wasn’t able to compete in the semi-final he qualified for.
The now Top Rank pro had pro options after claiming Olympic bronze in London, but elected to remain amateur because he still held dear his childhood Olympic gold dream.
However, after dedicating the next four years of his life to achieving that goal in Rio, Conlan who went into the competition as world champion, was robbed in the quarterfinals – and it broke his heart.
“To be an Olympic champion was my dream,” Conlan explained to boxing reporter Steve Bunce as part of an ESPN package hyping this weekend’s rematch.
“It was the only reason I stayed until Rio. When I sat down – I think I was in the bath actually – I got a bath and I’m sitting in the bath and I broke down crying.”
“No one else seen me crying. I was just sitting there for 30 minutes in the bath chilling out. Even now I can feel the emotion. I just cried. I’m never, ever going to be Olympic champion. That was my time.”.
While he will never achieve that Olympic gold dream the decorated former amateur does take some positives from Rio. On a wider level his outburst helped change the governance of the sport – particularly at Olympic level – for the better, but on a personal note it helped persuade Top Rank to sign him.
Now working alongside Bob Arum and co the younger brother of Jamie Conlan is moving toward some serious professional success.
“When I sat there and thought about it, it did break my heart. Now? I’m at peace. Do I have any regrets after Rio? No, because it’s made me the fighter that I am.”
Conlan has the chance to put Nikitin behind him when the pair meet in New York this weekend.
The old amateur rivals fight for the third time – Nikitin actually officially won their previous two outings – on a massive ESPN broadcast card at Madison Square Garden on Saturday.
The Adam Booth-trained fighter is much further down the line in terms of his pro career than his old foe and a win on Saturday night won’t greatly enhance Conlan’s world title hopes.
However, the Belfast switch hitter claims this clash, which was originally scheduled for Belfast and August, is about revenge and redemption not about records or ratings.
“That’s all it is, it’s about me and him,” Conlan explains. “It’s not about records really. If I’m honest, in terms of my career, in terms of progression, this fight does absolutely nothing. I look at it as high risk, zero reward for me.”
“Deep down I might feel it personally but in terms of my career, this is a business move. I know it’s a risky fight but it’s a fight I know I can go in [and] do well, beat him, put it to bed and close this chapter of my career.”