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Rising boxing star Michael Conlan on his Olympic nightmare and his future in the pro ranks

Irish boxing sensation Michael Conlan has a long and promising career ahead of him after agreeing to a professional deal with global giants Top Rank.

The Belfast bantamweight has already packed a huge amount into his career so far, including a world amateur title, a Commonwealth gold medal and an Olympic appearance steeped in controversy.

We caught up with the 24-year-old fighter ahead of a must-see meet and greet event at McGettigan’s JLT tonight. Here’s what he had to say on the burning issues in boxing…

His controversial Olympic defeat
I still think it is a travesty, nothing has changed in my eyes. The only think I could have done differently is perhaps box a bit better in the last round. But I thought I should have had it won in the first two rounds.

I thought the fight was close, perhaps closer than I admit, but I still believe I won all 3 rounds and most people in the world still do too. I don’t know what they (the judges) were seeing.

His emotional reaction to the verdict
Everything I said I would say again even though it was out of hand. Because it was what I was feeling at the time. I spoke my true emotion and if I haven’t said it, I would be sitting here with a lot of regret. I stand by it still, and I mean what I said.

His Olympic betting scandal
I can clarify that. When we sign contracts it was in the contract that you weren’t allowed to bet on the Games. I didn’t read the contract, I just signed it to be able to fight. That was a bit arrogant, to look over the contract but not read it through properly.

There was very little to do in the Olympic village, we were either making weight or sitting around all day and I just bet because I was bored. They tried to put a bit of a shame on us (a group of Irish and British fighters were reprimanded) but I’m not really ashamed. It wasn’t intended to do anything bad.

Michael Conlan

Proudest moment
I still can’t top winning the world gold in Doha last year, on October 14 to be exact. I’m the only Irishman ever to win gold in the Worlds. We’ve had silver and a few bronze so for me to come and do that is very special.

I just felt at ease, no one could beat me. That year I was European champion, I had won 11 fights and I felt in really good rhythm. I was going into the ring and making world class boxers look like nothing and so I just knew after my first fight that it was my time.

Technical and mental strengths
I have always been confident in my ability – even from an early age. I started boxing at seven and the reason I loved it was I could go in the gym and spar bigger lads. Hit and don’t get hit, that’s my thing and that is the art of boxing right there.

I can fight orthodox or southpaw, forward or backwards. That’s been from years of practice. (His dad John is a boxing coach while brother Jamie is a professional and two other siblings also enjoyed boxing)

My mum also should come in with the self belief and the psychological stuff. I believe it works, I believe in myself 100 per cent and the more you reaffirm that and think things through, put your whole belief in it, then you make it happen.

On fellow Irishman Conor McGregor, the MMA star taking the world by storm

I never watched MMA until I watched Conor. He’s actually one of the nicest guys in the world. He’s not the big, brash smack talking guy, he’s actually a real nice guy. As a fighter, it’s so special because he has made himself millions.

This year he said he’d be lifting 40 million and the guy is 27. That’s serious money from sport. He is a bit of an inspiration, I respect him and definitely take things from him, in terms of his confidence and his dress sense.

The future

I’ve just signed with Top Rank, which is a big American promoter who had Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De la Hoya, Mohammad Ali and all the greats. They have taken them from the Olympic stage, amateur, to professional world champions so I’m with the best in the business.

I’ve signed up for six fights minimum in my first year. My debut will be on St Patrick’s Day weekend in New York, at Madison Square Garden. I’m really looking forward to the journey. Most of the fights will be in the States around Boston and Chicago and New York, and it is going to be fantastic with the Irish expat community. There’s no fans like the Irish fans, that’s the truth.

I’m going to start at super bantamweight and win the world title. Then I’ll move up to featherweight and win the world title, and move up to super featherweight and win the world title. That’s the plan. Don’t doubt me.

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