Michael Conlan could meet Nevada’s Jessie Magdaleno in a world title fight in Ireland after putting the record straight against Vladimir Nikitin at New York’s Madison Square Garden (MSG) on Saturday night.
The unbeaten Belfast feather beat the Russian battler on a unanimous decision — 100-90, 99-91, 98-92 — to improve to 13 wins and claim the WBO Inter-Continental title in a repeat of their controversial Rio 2016 quarter-final which Nikitin won.
While the scorecards had Conlan virtually landsliding, the fight itself was close, with Nikitin’s belligerency making Conlan work hard in the showdown between the London 2012 and Rio 2016 bronze medallists.
IABA high performance coach, John Conlan, said after his son’s hand was raised in victory that they’re not even thinking of a world title fight, and that they’re just going to enjoy the win.
Nikitin and Conlan embraced after finally putting the ghost of Rio 2016 to rest, with Conlan admitting he was under severe pressure going into the ten-rounder.
“I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s nice to get it done. Maybe I stayed in a comfort zone too long instead of pushing it. You could see when I wanted to trade I could do it better than him, but the game is all about longevity, said Conlan.
“I’ve always said I’ve no ill-feeling towards Vladimir. Nothing was personal. I just needed to get that one back. The fight could have been emotional because of what happened [at Rio 2016], but I stayed calm,” he said.
Conlan will headline an MSG card on St Patrick’s Day next, and Magdaleno could be next in a world title showdown amid speculation the fight could be in Belfast.
Meanwhile, Cork’s Noel Murphy dropped a unanimous decision to Josue “The Prodigy” Vargas in a ten-rounder for the IBF North American title on the MSG undercard.
Unbeaten American Terence Crawford retained his WBO welterweight title with a ninth round knockout of Egidijus Kavaliauskas.
Crawford, 32, recovered from an apparent knockdown in round three to overwhelm the Lithuanian, dropping him in the seventh and twice more in the ninth, a right hook ending the fight.