“I was being honest and that’s me” – No Rio reaction regrets for Michael Conlan


He generally does his talking with his fists but Michael Conlan believes his middle finger has helped him build a profile beyond that of your average six-fight pro novice.

Having been controversially eliminated at the quarter-final stage of the Olympics the fighter, who went into the 2016 Rio Games with a World gold in his pocket and with the favourite tag on his back, wasn’t going to take the injustice lightly.

The Belfast fighter let the officials know his feelings by flipping the bird at them and he was even less reserved when talking to the media following the unbelievable reverse to Russian Vladimir Nikitin.

Top Rank boss Bob Arum admitted he loved the Irish fighter’s reaction and immediately checked his new star’s boxing potential before setting about signing him.

It eventually led to Conlan receiving the biggest pro deal for any Irish fighter turning over, reportedly banking a seven-figure signing-on fee.

The younger brother of recent world title challenger Jamie Conlan was always backed as a potential world champion but he feels those few moments did more for his career than his extensive boxing achievements.

It certainly did help in regards to getting Top Rank backing and possibly enabled him book-end his debut year with packed Madison Square Garden Theater fight nights and he will make his big room debut on May 12th on the Linares-Lomachenko undercard.

Most seem to be looking forward rather than back in terms of the 26-year-old and talk more about what might be than what might have been.

However, wherever Conlan goes there will always be fans looking for middle finger photo opportunities and, in U.S. media especially, the Rio episode remains a big topic.

The Falls Road man notes how his Olympic actions still follow him around.

“It’s sad that the media prefer negativity to success but it’s the world we live in now,” said Conlan.

“Social media means news changes every second but negative stories seem to last longer.”

“If a big achievement happens, you’ll never get as much recognition as you would do back in the day when you were the only thing on the news. Social media means big achievements disappear quickly.”

It’s an interesting viewpoint on the situation. There certainly was massive media interest, but it was fueled more by outrage, injustice, and came from a place of solidarity with the exciting Belfast prospect.

The fighter himself admits it has helped his pro career but you get the sense that, in an ideal world, he would have preferred to have achieved his Olympic gold dream and got a similar profile boost.

“I don’t regret my reaction to getting robbed because I know I wouldn’t be in this position if it wasn’t for that. Name me an Olympic champion from that Games who has a higher profile than me. I don’t think there is one.”

“The main thing I take from what happened and the reason so many people loved it was because it was an athlete in the spotlight who didn’t stick to the script. I was being honest and that’s me,” he added before pondering how he would react if robbed as a pro.

“If something like that happened in the professional ranks, how I would react depends how I feel at the time. If I felt it was unjust like Rio then I would act the same but with close fights, there’s nothing you can say.”

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