I caught up recently with newly crowned amateur World Champion Michael Conlan. He talked winning Gold in Doha, the Billy Walsh scandal, his plans for the Rio Olympics and turning pro.
Ireland’s New Golden Boy
An interview with Michael Conlan could only start in one place really, we wanted to know first off just what it was like when he clinched that gold medal at only 23 years of age, and made history for Irish sport in Doha. He said:
“It was unreal, words still can’t describe it. Everything I had worked for in my career had finally paid off.”
Michael is now the AIBA bantamweight World Champion, he is the first Irishman to win a senior World Championship gold medal.
But Michael says nothing has changed besides getting recognised more, he joked:
“Nothing’s really changed I’m still the same old me and always will be, although I have been getting recognised a lot more.”
Winning the gold medal was reward for Michael’s years of hard work and dedication, and say’s the overriding emotion of the whole occasion was happiness for himself, his family, fans and Irish boxing as a whole:
”Happiness, known that what I had accomplished had paid off for Irish boxing, my friends and of course my family as they had dedicated there lives around me.”
Conlan is now ranked number one by the AIBA, but with winning the gold in Doha he also qualified for the Olympics in Rio 2016.
Experts are backing Michael to take gold at the games and Michael himself sees anything other than a Gold in Rio as a failure:
”To be honest yes, I know I’m going there to win gold, I know nothing is going to stop me It’s the only thing I can see, feel and want, I know I have everything it takes to go and pick it up, so anything else would be failure.”
Billy Walsh Scandal
Only a week after winning in Doha, Irish boxing was hit by the departure of Michael’s and the national team’s coach – Billy Walsh. Walsh left to join the USA women’s team, the story made front page news and headlines across the boxing world.
Michael says he feels let down by the whole situation:
”Obviously let down that he had left, he is a friend and a friend of my family also, it was just unfortunate that he couldn’t have stay until Rio.”
It was an ugly saga played out in the press, in truth. The day Billy Walsh flew out to America it was headline news that he was in Dublin Airport, everyone was hoping that there would be a u-turn and he would stay on with Ireland, but it wasn’t meant to be.
Conlan sees the whole thing as a shambles but thinks the Irish team can still be as successful in Rio without Billy Walsh:
”I think it was a bit of a shambles to be honest, not even a week after I won gold and it went on forever. Yes I do, just as successful as we will be if he was apart of the team.”
Turning Pro and Ultimate Aspirations
Should he win Gold in Rio, Michael says that will be the last time he is an amateur fighter, but that he will take time out to decide on what is the best professional deal out there for him and his family:
”I won’t be an Amateur again that’s for sure, though I will have to take a bit of time to makes sure whatever deal I choose is right for me and my family and that could take a bit of time.”
Many people are tipping Michael to win a world title when he eventually turns pro, but he doesn’t let the hype distract him and just sees it as a compliment:
”I find it as a compliment, it’s great seeing people talk about what I will do as a pro, means I am doing something right I think.”
Michael who turns 24 next week, has ambitions of challenging for Irish, British and European honours in his first 6 fights as a pro, and then wants a world title by 2018.
I asked Michael what his goals where in the next 3 to 4 years and his reply shows how confident the young man truly is:
”Gold in Rio then turn pro, I would like to fight for a world title very quick so if I could fight for the Irish on my debut then maybe commonwealth, British and Euro titles within 6 fights. A world title by 2018 is the aim though I’m young and not in a rush so I’ll sit down when I turn pro and discus my plan”.
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