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Mick Conlan ignoring publicity hungry Shakur Stevenson in favour of Nikitin revenge mission

Shakur Stevenson can talk all he wants. Mick Conlan [8(5)-0] has a clear path in his head and Russian ‘bad guy’ Vladimir Nikitin is top of his hit list.

The Belfast featherweight wants a world title next year as well as a clash with American wonderkid Stevenson but a fight with Nikitin will come before all that.

Conlan was controversially defeated by the Russian in the quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics in one of the biggest stories of the Games.

Since then the Falls Road starlet has springboarded to a high-profile slot in the Top Rank stable and the U.S. promotional giant have recently signed Nikitin with the express intention of building a fight with Conlan.

The pair share a card next weekend [Saturday October 20th] in Las Vegas and Conlan wants to face the Komi fighter in the new year – with both Madison Square Garden on St Patrick’s Weekend and the Falls Park in August as part of the Féile an Phobail being options.

At the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino next Saturday Conlan will face former Italian champion Nicola Cipolletta [14(4)-6(2)-2] while Nikitin [1(0)-0] makes an early jump up to eight rounds when he fights American Clay Burns [5(4)-4(0)-2] in just his second fight.

For Conlan, Nikitin is top of the agenda rather than Stevenson [8(4)-0] – who common promoter Bob Arum envisions facing the Irishman down the line in a modern-day equivalent of Sugar Ray Leonard v Tommy Hearns.

The young American will take a major step-up this Saturday night, boxing Romanian Viorel Simion [21(9)-2(0)] for the WBC Continental Americas title on the Terence Crawford v Jose Benavidez undercard in Omaha.

26-year-old Conlan is not yet interested in the Newark native, however, and noted “people will make comparisons between me and Shakur and want me to contribute to it but I don’t focus on anybody apart from myself.”

“Shakur has performed well and I know he’s talented. I give him respect but to me he’s just another possible future opponent. He and his people are just mentioning me so often to try and gain publicity.”

“His publicist talks all this rubbish about me because I sold out Madison Square Garden. American athletes didn’t do that and so they were just clutching at straws with the whole thing.”

“If he wins a world title before I do, so be it. It doesn’t have any effect on my journey.

Outlining his Nikitin revenge plan, Conlan admitted that “if there was someone who I was slightly focused on, the only person I have in mind is the Russian Nikitin from the Rio Olympics.”

“I want to right that wrong then my focus will turn to something else.”

Considering career-stage, a fight next year versus the Russian would not be for a major belt but Conlan wants to springboard from this intensely personal goal to a world title fight.

The 2015 World Amateur Champion explained how “I’ve said since the start of my career that 2019 is the year I wanted to win a world title. It might be at the end of that year so I can get as much time and experience as possible.”

“I feel I’m on course to be thereabouts by then. I turned professional to challenge myself.”


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Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie