Michael Conlan claims world title in Doha

BoxingBy Sean McGoldrick
The moment the Belfast boxer is crowned champion of the world
The moment the Belfast boxer is crowned champion of the world

There was glory for Michael Conlan as he claimed Ireland's first ever senior men's world title but there was also a baffling defeat for Michael O'Reilly.

The 23 year Belfast man survived a knock down in the final minute to fashion a unanimous 3-0 win over his Uzbek opponent Murodjon Akhmadaliev.

He is the first Irish boxer in the 41 year history of the event to secure the gold medal and his dream of being the World, European, Commonwealth and Olympic champion lives on.

Provided he steers clear of injury Conlan – who also became a father for the first time this year – will go to Rio as one of the favourites for the gold medal.

“World champion not much else you can say,” beamed Conlan afterwards. “I'm a bit embarrassed at getting knocked down in the last round. It is the first time I have been on the canvas in my life. He hit me right on the button.

Reflecting on the support of the Irish fans in the arena he said:

“I have never seen anything like in my life I don't even have this support at home. I'm completely over the moon,” he said.

Essentially the two boxers went to war in what was a classic decider. There was understandable nervousness in the Irish camp after the way Michael O'Reilly fight had been scored half an hour earlier.

On this occasion, however, the judges went with what they observed. It looked in the early stages at Conlan would adopt a southpaw stance but essentially tactics went out the window as the pair simply traded punches at will.

Crucially Conlan edged the first round on two of the judges' cards. The Irishman upped his work rate at the start of the second round and while he shipped some knocks he delivered more than his opponent and won the round on all three judges' cards.

Now leading 20-18 on two of the judges' cards he had one hand on the gold medal but nothing can ever by taken for granted in boxing.

The pair continued to punish each other in the final round but just as the Irish were about to celebrate Conlan was sent sprawling to the canvas for the first time in his career.

He was quickly on his feet and comfortably survived the standing count.

Predictably the Uzbek went for the kill but Conlan survived the remaining few seconds and he had his hand in the air well before the judges' decision was announced.

He knew his moment had arrived: he was champion of the world.

So regardless of how Joe Ward fares tomorrow night in his final Ireland will bring home the gold from Doha.

Earlier today Portlaoise Michael O'Reilly suffered a controversial loss in his box-off for Olympic qualification.

The Irish middleweight – who is assured of a bronze medal – went down to a highly debatable 3-0 decision. Interestingly the score after each round wasn't available to journalists in the arena as normal but the general view was that the Irishman had prevailed in the first two rounds

"I’m absolutely gutted myself, I don’t know what went on, it’s just ridiculous. In my mind I was up and won every round easy. I’m still in shock," said O'Reilly.

The veteran Egyptian Hosam Abdin secured a precious Olympic place and one wonders whether he was one of the few boxers from the Middle East to be in contention for a place on final day had any influence on the judging.

Granted O'Reilly shipped more punches than he normally does but he seemed to have done enough to win both the first and second rounds. Interestingly in the highlight shown between the rounds it was the Irishman who was shown to be on target.

But with the Egyptian 20-18 ahead on all three judges cards at the end of the second round his fate was effectively sealed. He did win the third round but it mattered little.

Despite this setback O'Reilly still has had a remarkable season winning a gold medal at the inaugural European Games and securing a bronze medal for Doha.

He will have two more chances to secure that elusive Olympic spot but the fact that he was essentially robbed on this occasion won't sit easy with him.