AIBA World Elite bantamweight champion Michael Conlan advanced to the last-eight of the Olympic Games in Rio in emphatic style this afternoon.
The No. 1 seed in the 56kg class at the 31st Olympiad picked Irish boxing off the ropes and got it back in the fight with an impressive unanimous decision – 30-27,30-27,29-28 – over Aram Avagyan.
The durable Armenian took one judge with him in the last round of a hard-hitting contest, but at that stage Conlan was already looking ahead to Tuesday’s quarter-final.
Conlan established command after slipping home a neat left seconds in the first and connecting with two sweeping rights in a neutral corner.
He also soaked up an number of shots from Avagyan. However, the cumulative intensity and quality of Conlan’s work took the frame across the board.
It was more of the same in the second, Conlan, boxing almost exclusively orthodox for the three rounds, doing most of the damage, the Armenian firing in single shots from behind a compact guard but never really threatening to reduce the deficit from the first.
Conlan revealed that his baby daughter Luisne, who is in Rio with his family including his brother Jamie who is unbeaten in the pro ranks, was the inspiration for today’s win.
“I saw my daughter on the screen before I came out. It gave me a bit of a kick to go in and do it for her, he said.
“There’s a lot more to come from me, Katie (Taylor) and the coaches.
“It’s good to get that one out of the way. People are here to win and will do anything they can to win.I felt I had to step up today and I’m delighted with the win.”
The current World and European Elite champion found the target with two stunning rights in the third and finished out the frame with a flourish to seal a much needed win for the Irish camp.
The Clonard BC bantam, whose family were at ringside – while his dad was in his corner with the Irish coaching staff – at the Pavilion 6 venue, will meet a familiar foe, Russia’s, Vladimir Nikitin, in the quarter-finals on Tuesday with a bronze medal up for grabs.
Nikitin, who edged out Charchai Butdee of Thailand on a split verdict today, beat Conlan in the quarter-finals of the 2013 World Elite Championships in Kazakhstan.
However, Conlan had just moved up from flyweight to bantam for Central Asia following the departure of London 2012 silver medallist John Joe Nevin to the pro ranks.
Nevin beat the Nikitin en route to gold in the semi-finals of the 2013 European Elites in Belarus before switching codes a few months later.
The Russian has won 14 of his 15 fights in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) since 2012 and qualified for Rio through the WSB.
Conlan, the 2015 World gold medallist, and Nikitin, the 2013 World silver medallist, clash on Tuesday afternoon for a place in the last four and a guaranteed bronze.
Twenty four hour earlier, London 2012 champion Katie Taylor renews acquaintances with Finland’s Mira Potkonen at 3pm (Irish time) for a place in the semi-finals and at least bronze.
Both lightweights hardly need an introduction at this stage as Taylor beat the Finn at the 2014 and 2013 World and EU Championships and in a homecoming bout in her hometown of Bray in 2012.
Azerbaijan’s Yana Alexseevna and China’s Yin Junhua go head-to-head in the corresponding quarter-final on Monday.
Taylor’s focus is on the top of the 60kg podium under the iconic shadow of Christ The Redeemer.
She said: “After I came back from London with a gold medal, my focus straight away was to defend it four years on. To stand on top of the podium in front of every other nation would be a privilege and an honour.”
Conlan and Taylor, both No.1 seeds in their respective weights, are the last two Irish boxers left in Rio.
Both received byes into the last 16 and last 8.
Between them the Wicklow and Belfast pair have won Olympic gold and bronze, six World Elite titles and seven European Elite gold medals.
Irish Draw Rio Olympics
August 7th (last 32)
60kg David Oliver Joyce (Ireland) beat Andrique Allisop (Seychelles) 3-0
69kg Steven Donnelly (Ireland) beat Zahir Kedache (Algeria) 3-0
August 8th (last 16)
49kg Paddy Barnes (Ireland) lost to Samuel Carmona (Spain) 1-2
August 9th (last 16)
60kg David Oliver Joyce (Ireland) lost to Albert Selimov (Azerbaijan) 0-3
August 10th (last 16)
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) lost to Carlos Andreas Mina (Ecuador) 1-2
August 11th (last 16)
69kg Steven Donnelly (Ireland) beat Tuvshinbat Byamba (Mongolia) 2-1
August 12th (last 16)
75kg Michael O’Reilly (Ireland) lost to Uziel Rodriquez (Mexico) W/O
August 13th (last 32)
52kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) lost to Shakhobidin Zoirov (Uzbekistan) 0-3
69kg Steven Donnelly (Ireland) lost to Mohammed Rabii (Morocco) 1-2
August 14th (last 16)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Aram Avagyan (Armenia) 3-0
August 15th (Q/Final)
60kg Katie Taylor (Ireland) v Mira Potkonen (Finland)
August 16th (Q/Final)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) v Vladimir Nikitin (Russia)
60kg (Lightweight) – Katie Taylor (Bray)
49kg (Light-flyweight) – Paddy Barnes (Holy Family)
52kg (Flyweight) – Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s)
56kg (Bantamweight) – Michael Conlan (Clonard)
60kg (Lightweight) – David Oliver Joyce (St Michael’s Athy & AIBA Pro Boxing)
69kg (Welterweight) – Steven Donnelly (All Saints)
75kg (Middleweight) – Michael O’Reilly (Portlaoise)
81kg (Light-heavyweight) – Joe Ward (Moate & AIBA Pro Boxing)
Team Manager: Joe Hennigan
Coaches: Zaur Antia, Eddie Bolger, John Conlan
Physio: Julianne Ryan
Sport Psychologist: Gerry Hussey
Doctor: Jim Clover