Unrepentant Michael Conlan relishing turning professional at Madison Square Garden

Unrepentant Michael Conlan relishing turning professional at Madison Square Garden

Irish boxer Michael Conlan insists the filth and the fury of his combustible amateur career has stood him in good stead as he builds towards his paid debut at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick's Day.

Unrepentant Michael Conlan relishing turning professional at Madison Square Garden

The 25-year-old hit headlines around the world after issuing a two-fingered salute to the officials in the wake of his highly controversial loss to Russian Vladimir Nikitin at the Rio Olympics.

But Conlan's days of battling judges as well as the elements in some of global sport's more inhospitable outposts are over after he landed a lucrative deal with promoter Bob Arum which kicks off at the historic venue on March 17.

Conlan said: "I have no regrets what I did in Rio and I feel like everything that has happened since then has been a blessing.

"For about a week I was devastated and I thought it was the end of the world but the way things have worked out I don't think I'd have got such a good opportunity if I'd gone and won the gold medal.

"I've spent years in the amateurs going around the world boxing in some absolute s***holes. I spent four weeks in Kazakhstan in a cabin with no internet when it was snowing outside.

"I went to Venezuela - the hotel was nice but it was surrounded by favelas and you couldn't go out without an armed guard.

"And now here I am getting ready to fight at Madison Square Garden on St Patrick's Day - the biggest holiday for the whole of Ireland. It's all a dream come true for me."

Unsurprisingly Conlan insists he has no intention of paying the 10,000 Swiss Francs fine levied against him as a result of his outburst in Rio, which was vindicated in some respects by subsequent events.

In October, world governing body AIBA announced the temporary suspension of all the referees and judges involved in the Rio Games and admitted "an unwelcome axis of influence" had affected results.

Conlan was one of a number of Irish fighters - including his close friend Paddy Barnes - who turned professional immediately after Rio and despite the opening-up of the amateur game, he insists there is no chance he will ever be back.

He added: "I wouldn't go back to box for them if they offered me a hundred grand. On the one hand they're trying to give me a fine and on the other they're suspending judges and basically admitting things were wrong.

"But to be honest it doesn't bother me any more. I just have to move forward with my career and concentrate on my next fight. I'm really looking forward to getting going again."

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