Michael Conlan lost his bantamweight fight on Tuesday in a controversial decision that shocked the boxing world.
But it didn’t surprise Patrick Barnes.
The father of Irish fighter Paddy Barnes claimed on Tuesday that he was told earlier in the day that the fight between Conlan and Russian boxer Vladimir Nikitin would be rigged in the Russian’s favor, JOE.ie reported. That’s exactly what most observers say happened on Tuesday, with Conlan dominating all three rounds of the quarterfinal bout but then losing in a 29-28 decision.
Patrick Barnes, father of Paddy Barnes, said the Irish camp was warned earlier in the day that the fight would be rigged.
“We knew coming here this morning, the Russians told us that Michael wasn’t going to get the contest,” Barnes said (via JOE.ie). “They told us that themselves. And we knew.”
Barnes called the decision “the ultimate robbery,” and Michael Conlan seemed to agree. As the decision was announced after the fight, he stood in the center of the ring and raised each arm, displaying his middle finger to the judges.
In a live television interview following the bout, Conlan went on an obscenity-laced tirade against the judges and the International Boxing Association, known as AIBA.
In the interview, Conlan vowed never to fight for AIBA again.
“They’re [expletive] cheats, it’s as simple as that,” Conlan said. “I’ll never box for anybody again. They’re cheating [expletives and] they’re paying everybody.”
But Michael Conlan didn’t get all of his venting out during the interview. Later in the day on Tuesday, he tweeted a message directly to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“How much did they charge you bro??” Conlan wrote.
The controversial loss came four years after Michael Conlan earned a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, then chose to hold back on going pro so he could try again for a gold medal. He was considered the top contender to win gold in the Rio Olympics, especially after having won the AIBA world championships last year.
As Yahoo Sports noted, the three judges — Jones Kennedy Silva do Rosario (Brazil), Udeni Kiridena (Sri Lanka), and Mariusz Gorny (Poland) — scored the first round for Nikitin despite Conlan appearing to dominate. After being told that he was losing, Conlan took a more aggressive approach in the second round, going inside to pound the Russian boxer, winning on points. Conlan was aggressive again in the third round, but it was scored for Nikitin.
“I came for gold and I’ve been cheated,” he said. “I’ll not do another Olympics. I would advise anybody not to compete for AIBA. At the end of the first round, it had been so easy, so comfortable, I wasn’t even out of breath. I said, ‘I’ll win this easily.’ But I was told I was down so I had to go to war.”
As Yahoo Sports noted, there were many other controversial decisions at the Rio Olympics, with many favoring Russian boxers.
“Tuesday’s morning session was filled with bad calls – American Gary Antuanne Russell was eliminated in the light welterweight quarterfinal even though Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnararov spent most of the last two rounds doing little other than running – but the Conlan-Nikitin fight may have topped them all.
“On Tuesday, that is. On Monday, Russian heavyweight Evgeny Tishchenko won the gold medal in a horrid decision over Vassiliy Levit of Kazakhstan.”
Even other boxers were critical of the decision against Michael Conlan. American fighter Shakur Stevenson said afterward that he believed the Irish boxer should have won the fight. Stevenson will now face Nikitin in the seminal round.
[Photo by Jae C. Hong/AP Images]