Michael Conlan pulls no punches at ‘AIBA cheats’

Amateur boxing stinks. AIBA, its international governing body, are cheats. The Olympic boxing tournament is a shambles.

Michael Conlan was not pulling any punches yesterday. After three international five-star judges booted him out of the Olympic Games, he hit them with every cuss and claim that came to hand.

Whether it is true or not, and whether there is any substance to Conlan’s angry assertions, they have gone around the world now from the Olympic Games in Rio and the reputation of the noble art fought to the rules laid down by an English aristocrat is dragged again into the gutter.

RTÉ in the hall were the first to record the Belfast bantamweight’s visible anger at a unanimous points decision against him in the quarter-final contest with Russian Vladimir Nikitin that would have guaranteed Ireland its only Olympic medal in Rio.

“Amateur boxing stinks. I was here to win an Olympic gold and my dream has been shattered,” Conlan started.

“AIBA cheats. They are known for being cheats and they will always be cheats. It stinks from the core to the top. They’re f**king cheats. I’ll never box for AIBA again. They are cheating bastards.

“I think I boxed the ears off him the first round and they ruled against me. It’s a shambles to be honest. I am gutted from the bottom of my heart.”

The AIBA last night said Conlan’s claims were “foundless”.

“His disappointment is massive, we can all understand that,” a spokesman said. “It’s his personal judgment.

“AIBA is striving for a fair, level-playing field. The idea is not to benefit one country towards another. These statements are foundless but he’s free to have his opinion.”

Officially, the Olympic record for these Games will record that Conlan lost on an unanimous decision of three judges by a score each of them gave of 29-28. It will join the long annals of debatable decisions argued over endlessly since boxers first stopped toe-to-toe in an Olympic ring at the Games in Paris in 1904.

By the time Conlan reached the mixed zone where boxers meet the rest of the media, he had calmed hardly at all. “I’m absolutely devastated. See everybody’s reaction after. They didn’t believe he won, I didn’t believe he won, the crowd didn’t believe he won, I don’t think his corner even believed he won.

“Amateur boxing is dead. It’s whoever pays the most money gets the biggest wins. AIBA is turning people against boxing. Shame on them. One thing certain I’ll never box in an AIBA competition again. Not if they paid me five million.”

Team coach Eddie Bolger took up the theme with only a little more restraint. “You hear rumours around, hear whispers that names are already on the medals. You don’t want to be naive enough to think it couldn’t happen,” he said.

The first shock to him came after the first round when all three judges ruled against his man. “That first round was an exhibition of boxing and we had to change plans then when the scores filtered down. Knew he was down. We changed the plans to take it out of the hands of the judges,” he said.

Conlan had the experience to do that. He won the World Sereis and the World Elite last year and was seeded number one here. Nobody expected him to lose to an unfancied Russian.

So Plan B was to slog it out with a Russian who looked more of a bar-room brawler than an exponent of any noble art. It won Conlan the unanimous verdict of three judges in that second round but then they ruled against him unanimously again in the third.

“I was so disappointed after the first round today, so disappointed after yesterday (Katie Taylor’s loss). That is how you win fights, don’t take as many shots as your opponent. It is a simple game but they (judges) try to make a science out of it.

“These guys are five-star judges and they can’t get a decision right. Bookies are paying out on losers.

“It’s happening too often. I have been to every major tournament in the world, APB, WSB, no bums on seats. Nobody goes to watch it because you can’t fool the public all the time.

“It’s an insult to people who call themselves a boxing fan. You can’t keep telling them ‘you’re wrong, this guy won the fight’. It’s very sad for the Olympics, for people who has worked so hard to be here.”

Seven Irish boxers did that – an eighth Michael O’Reilly was sent home for a doping offence — and all seven of them were eliminated without winning a medal, a sad comedown from five in 2012 and three four years earlier in Beijing.

“Michael was so good, I’m so proud of him. There was only one winner. The whole stadium thought there was only one winner,” said Bolger.

That certainly was true. Conlan says he will never box an AIBA tournament again and that may not be for him to decide. What he said yesterday will be heard by AIBA and probably acted upon.

Bolger believes that Conlan, one of the Irish medallists at the 2012 Olympics and world and European champion since, had decided already to turn professional after these Games and if AIBA come down on him heavily for his words, he may not get the opportunity to change his mind.

Bringing the sport into disrepute would be the charge. But then Conlan would argue that it was three judges who did that before he voiced his opinion.

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