Irish boxer Michael Conlan has opened up on a potential rematch with his old rival Vladimir Nikitin, explaining that a grudge match between the pair is “in the works for Belfast this year.”
Conlan was defeated by the Russian in incredibly controversial circumstances during the bantamweight quarter-finals of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
The Belfast native appeared to have comfortably won the bout, but lost the first and third rounds on the scorecards, with the decision leading to Conlan’s now infamous post-fight interview.
Since turning pro, Conlan has been on a steady incline, winning his first ten fights and capturing his maiden title by beating Jason Cunningham for the WBO Inter-Continental featherweight belt in December.
Nikitin, who is 2-0 in his pro-career, is also signed to Top Rank USA and is scheduled to fight on the same card as Conlan in a week’s time.
The Russian has not been shy in his desires to face Conlan, outlining last year that it was the reason behind his signing with the promotion.
“I want Conlan. That is the plan, and he is the main reason why I signed with Top Rank. I want to fight him as a pro. The judges won’t be necessary this time around.”
Speaking to Pundit Arena as he prepares for his first title defence against Ruben Garcia Hernandez on St Patrick’s Day in Madison Square Garden, Conlan outlined that the Nikitin rematch is something he needs to “get off his chest”
“I feel that’s one I need to get off the chest and once I get that one out of the way I can continue on, and start to move on to bigger and better things.
“I feel that the fight that I need for myself is the Nikitin fight but I’m obviously focused on Ruben Garcia Hernandez. My short term goal is the Nikitin fight in Belfast.”
A bout in Belfast would no doubt be a fantastic homecoming for Conlan who has impressed during his fights America.
Although the 27-year old outlined he isn’t looking past Garcia-Hernandez, he explained that, should they both win on Saturday and stay injury free, the hope is to fight in Conlan’s hometown in August.
“That’s basically in the works now for Belfast this year. That’s been the talk and that’s what I’ve asked for. It’s going in that direction as long as no one gets injured. Or he doesn’t slip up and lose in the meantime, it should happen in Belfast this summer.
“If we both win, I might have to fight in May again and then it should be August in Belfast.”
Stay with Pundit Arena for more from Michael Conlan over the next few days as well as his full exclusive interview which will be available on site on Friday, March 15th.