Boxing | Conlan named number one WBO contender

Michael Conlan has been named as the number one contender for the WBO featherweight belt.

The unbeaten Belfast boxer moves up two places from third in the rankings to take a step closer to a world title fight against reigning champion Shakur Stevenson.

22-year-old American Stevenson (13-0) beat Joet Gonzalez in Nevada last month to win the vacant WBO world title by unanimous decision.

Conlan – who won bronze in the 2012 Olympics – has won all 12 of his professional fights to date, defeating Diego Alberto Ruiz at Falls Park in his native Belfast in his most recent bout.

The 28-year-old will face Vladimir Nikitin at Madison Square Garden in New York on December 14th in an attempt to gain revenge for his controversial defeat to the Russian boxer at the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Irishman reacted angrily to the decision, and embarked on a passionate rant which saw him brand the International Boxing Association (AIBA) as cheats.

“I was here to win Olympic gold, my dream has been shattered now,” an emotional Conlan told RTÉ Sport afterwards.

An official Rio Olympics report from Irish boxing team manager Joe Hennigan later claimed the fight was fixed.

Fittingly, news of Conlan’s new status as number one contender comes on the same day that an International Olympic Committee task force confirmed that all 36 referees and judges from Rio 2016 will not be allowed to officiate at Tokyo 2020.

Numerous judges and referees were stood down and sent home in Brazil amid accusations of corruption.

Conlan’s compatriot Carl Frampton is fourth in the featherweight rankings, behind Conlan, Jessie Magdaleno and Ryan Walsh.