Michael Conlan has slammed AIBA judges after being controversially beaten in his Olympic bantamweight quarter-final at Riocentro, writes Will Downing.
The World and European Games Champion fell to a unanimous points defeat to Russian Vladimir Nikitin, meaning no Irish medals will be won in boxing at these Games – the first time this has happened since Athens in 2004.
Nikitin was given the first round by all three judges, despite Conlan looking to have done enough thanks to a strong start, coming out early with a series of quick combinations.
2013 World Championship silver-medallist Nikitin responded by trying to get the Irishman cornered against the ropes, but the Belfast man escaped the Russian’s attentions – yet it wasn’t enough to pick up the points.
The Irishman was given the second round by all three judges after stopping Nikitin twice, with the Rusian receiving attention from his corner.
Conlan’s strong start to the final round looked as if he had done enough to reach the semi-final and claim Ireland a second medal for the Games.
But when Algerian referee Kheira Sidi Yakoub raised Nikitin’s arm, Conlan blew his top in the ring, giving the judges a one-finger salute, and his anger continued outside it, calling the world amateur body cheats five times in a 20-second interview.
“They’re cheats. They’re f***ing cheats,” Conlan told RTE Sport after the fight.
“That’s me (done). I’m never fighting for AIBA again. They’re cheating b**tards. They’re paying everybody.
“I don’t give a f**k if I’m cursing on TV. I wanted to win Olympic gold. My dream’s been shattered now.
But you know what? I’ve a big career ahead of me. And these ones? They’re known for being cheats. They’ll always be cheats.
“Amateur boxing stinks, right from the core all the way to the top.”
The three judges all called it the same way – Kennedy Silva of Brazil, Udeni Kiridena of Sri Lanka, and Polands Mariusz Gorny awarding the first and third rounds to Nikitin, and the second to Conlan.
There was no immediate comment from the AIBA.
Bernard Dunne was also scathing in his post-fight analysis on RTÉ.
“AIBA needs to look at itself, it’s ridiculous,” he said. “I feel for the kid, I really do.
“It’s a horrible thing to have happen to you and it will sour the taste of amateur sport for him for the best of his life.
“You sacrifice all your life for a dream and then have a bunch of bandits bloody snatch it away from you. Conlan was clear winner.”
'Amateur boxing stinks' - The RTÉ panel discusses Michael Conlan's controversial defeat https://t.co/miT6HjqUYn— RTÉ Sport (@RTEsport) August 16, 2016
He was joined by many others who also decried the baffling decision.
Somebody should strike a special Olympic medal for Michael Conlan. He won his q/f and he has been cheated out of it. #Rio2016— Matt Cooper (@cooper_m) August 16, 2016
Paddy Barnes, Conlan’s colleague and fellow London 2012 medallist, said on Twitter that Conlan has been “robbed blind”.
At least have balls and say he was robbed blind https://t.co/UGbyyND5b7— Paddy Barnes OLY (@paddyb_ireland) August 16, 2016
2008 silver medallist Ken Egan asked: “Why would you encourage young athletes to bust their guts for four years to be robbed by five clowns that know nowt about boxing, who love dollars?”
Can't trust any of the athletics you watch, then this load of crap. #Rio2016— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) August 16, 2016
Julianne Ryan, a chartered physiotherapist who is in Rio with the Irish Boxing High Performance Unit, has said on social media that the Russian head coach has apologised for the decision. There has no confirmation yet of the apology.