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Michael Conlan has avenged his controversial Rio 2016 defeat to Vladimir Nikitin by defeating the Russian in New York.
Belfast featherweight Conlan claimed a unanimous decision victory over Nikitin – with scores of 100-90, 99-91 and 98-92 – after 10 rounds at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night to extend his perfect professional record to 13-0.
Boxing loves nothing more than a revenge story, and Conlan’s showdown with the man who infamously ended his Olympic aspirations in Brazil three years ago.
Conlan (13-0) made his way to the ring with a hybrid of ‘Grace’ and James Brown’s ‘Payback’ as his accompanying soundtrack.
The 28-year-old eased himself into the fight, looking to find his range from a southpaw stance in an uneventful first round.
Nikitin (3-1) proved a determined opponent, with Conlan exhibiting his counter-punching skills in the opening rounds.
The Russian hit the canvas in the third round, but his fall was ruled as a slip.
Nikitin, 29, put Conlan under considerable pressure in the fifth, backing the Belfast boxer on to the ropes with a flurry of punches.
Conlan resumed control of the fight in the closing rounds, keeping Nikitin at range with his solid jab.
Both fighters slugged it out in the middle of the ring in the seventh, much to the delight of the crowd.
The Irish fighter sported a cut over his right eye in the later rounds, while there was swelling and blood around Nikitin’s left eye following a sharp Conlan combination in the penultimate round.
Conlan looked comfortable in the latter stages, producing some big shots and clever combinations to secure revenge.
The former Olympic bronze medalist landed 177 punches compared to Nikitin’s 130, and boasted a power punch percentage of 47, in contrast with Nikitin’s rate of 24%.
“It was a lot of pressure,” he conceded afterwards.
“I feel like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders. It’s nice to get it done. As I’ve always said, I have no ill feeling towards Vladimir. Nothing was personal. I just needed to get that one back.”
Conlan is now targeting a world title fight in the next 12 months.