NEW YORK — Michael Conlan could have opted to bury his painful Olympic experience in the past.He’s not doing anything of the sort. Instead, Conlan is pushing the experience to the forefront and wearing it on his chest like a badge of honor. “I do believe that everything happens for a reason,” the 28-year-old said, looking back on the ordeal. “It’s not something I’m bothered with. I’m happy with the journey I’ve been on so far, I’m happy with my trajectory so far and how everything has gone according to plan, so it’s good.”Plus, he views this shot at redemption against Nikitin as a springboard for a memorable, life-changing 2020.”I will be a world champ in 2020,” he said, “but I’m not getting ahead of Saturday night.” Conlan ordered custom sweatshirts and T-shirts with the word “Redemption” scrawled across the chest for he and his team to rock during the promotion for his fight against Vladimir Nikitin on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. The word is accompanied by a green hand-wrapped fist (as a salute to his Irish heritage), with the middle finger representing the “i” in “Redemption.”Conlan and Nikitin have fought twice, with the Russian winning by decision each time. Their first fight, a 2013 scrap, had Nikitin edging Conlan on the cards. Fair enough. However, their second bout took place at the 2016 Rio Olympics, when the Irish fighter clearly won all three rounds and left Nikitin visibly worse for the wear. Yet, the fight was once again scored in the Russian’s favor.Join DAZN and watch more than 100 fight nights a yearConlan felt like he was robbed. He and his team called out the judges from the International Boxing Association (AIBA) for a corrupt ruling, but it didn’t do anything to reverse the decision. Had he won, Conlan would have advanced in the Summer Games to face Shakur Stevenson, who became the WBO featherweight champion in October. Conlan battered and cut Nikitin so badly in that fight that the Russian was unable to fight Stevenson in the semifinals.The AIBA was stripped of its Olympic status in June as a result of the scoring of that bout and won’t organize qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Games.While the trying experience was more than four years ago, Conlan says recalling it via the T-shirt is necessary — and not for selfish reasons, either.“I know a lot of people who have been screwed over in life and this is a way they could say f—k you to anyone who has done it,” Conlan told Sporting News ahead of Wednesday’s press conference. “This rematch is bigger in terms of what it could mean for people. I think it’s why people can have an attachment to this rematch because if you have a shot at redemption against someone who screwed them, you grab it with both hands.”Nikitin maintains that he won both fights.”We fought twice, and I won both times,” the Russian fighter, who turned pro last year, told reporters following his media workout Tuesday. “I know this is the professional game, and I am happy that I have the chance to prove that I am once again the better fighter.”After getting bounced from those 2016 Olympics quarterfinals, Conlan turned pro the following year and has amassed a 12-0 record, with a unanimous decision over Ruben Hernandez in March and a ninth-round TKO of Diego Alberto Ruiz in August counting as his body of work thus far in 2019.
Michael Conlan seeks ‘redemption’ against Vladimir Nikitin in first meeting since fixed 2016 Olympic fight