It’s official – Michael Conlan will fight Nikitin on big New York card

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It’s official, Michael Conlan [12(7)-0] will get his long-awaited chance at revenge over Vladimir Nikitin [3(0)-0] in New York on December 14th.

The former Olympic rivals will belatedly collide at the Madison Square Garden Arena on a huge Top Rank bill topped by Terence Crawford vs. Egidijus Kavaliauskas to be broadcast live on ESPN in the US.

The World Championships gold medal winner was set to face the Russian, who was in the opposite corner when he was infamously cheated out of a place in the semi finals of the Rio Olympic Games, at the massive Féile an Phobail show in early August.

However, weeks before the proposed top of the bill clash for a 10,000 Falls Park sell out was due to take place Nikitin pulled out claiming injury.

Nikitin, who was signed by Top Rank solely with a Rio rematch in mind, cited bicep injuries as the reason he wouldn’t be travelling to Belfast. Indeed, his team indicated he injured both biceps and did such damage he would be absent for the ring for sometime.

The news prompted everyone to accept that the rematch ship had sailed and the revenge mission was over. Indeed the popular Belfast fighter himself suggested as much claiming he was happy to move on.

However, in recent weeks the Adam Booth-trained fighter had indicated the Rio Russian revenge mission may just be back on – and late Monday he officially confirmed he will get the chance to put the Komi villain in his rear view mirror at Madison Square Garden come Christmas time.

Considering where the pair are at in their pro careers, Nikitn three fights in and Conlan maneuvering himself into the world rankings and hopeful of 2020 tilt, if it didn’t happen this year there was very little hope of a rematch ever taking place.

In fact with their current standings it’s narrative alone that makes the fight attractive. understands that, already, there are strong contingency plans in place and a replacement opponent should Nikitin again withdraw.

World-ranked featherweight Conlan has already picked up WBA and WBO ranking belts and the Russian has yet to impress.

However, in the lead up to the cancelled August show 29-year-old, Nikitin was in confident mood and was promising to knockout the rising star.

“One things for certain he wholeheartedly believes he is going to destroy Mick,” Jamie Conlan, who was chief negotiator in terms of making the fight, explained before describing a rather tense conversation with the Russian. 

“When I sat down with him and Egis [Klimas, Nikitin’s manager] I tried to  be diplomatic. I said ‘look if you lose we will guarantee your looked after. We will guarantee you x amount of fights’ and that kind of thing.”

“Then he said to me ‘I beat him twice before’. He put his two fingers up ‘not once, when no cameras were on I beat him’. I said ‘I seen that fight and you didn’t beat him then either’, it’s on YouTube.”

“He kept saying ‘I will beat him, I will beat him’. He said within three rounds. He really thinks he will beat Michael.”


Jonny Stapleton contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: