Michael Conlan is an Irish professional boxer who has challenged for the WBA Featherweight World Championship in March 2022 and IBF Featherweight World Championship in May 2023.
As an amateur, Conlan reached number one in the AIBA Bantamweight world rankings, with achievements that included a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics and gold at the 2015 World and European Championships, and gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He is one of Ireland's most successful amateur fighters of all-time.
Conlan shot to global notoriety after his outburst following his elimination from the 2016 Olympics and his disillusionment with amateur boxing, reaffirming his intention to turn professional. Conlan was eliminated in the quarter-finals by a controversial call, in which Russia's Vladimir Nikitin was awarded the victory. Conlan reacted by raising his middle finger at the judges and delivering a strongly-worded live television interview to RTE, accusing officials in amateur boxing of corruption. That decision was one of a number that had fellow international boxers and commentators questioning the integrity of Olympic boxing and the scoring system.
"My dream has been shattered now. They're known for being cheats, and they'll always be cheats. Amateur boxing stinks from the core right to the top."
Despite interest from several big boxing promotions, Conlan signed with Top Rank and made his professional debut at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden on St. Patrick’s Day in March 2017. Conlan beat Tim Ibarra by third round TKO and started his career with an impressive 12-0 run that included six TKO wins and winning the WBO Inter-Continental Featherweight title.
In August 2019, Conlan defeated Diego Alberto Ruiz via TKO, adding the WBA Inter-Continental title in front of a packed crowd in Falls Park in Belfast. Conlan would then go on to win his next three bouts which landed him a fight with T.J.Doheny in a purpose built stadium in Belfast for the vacant WBA Interim Featherweight title on the 6th August 2021. Conlan won the fight by unanimous decision, with two judges scoring the fight 116–111 in his favour, while the third judge scored it 119–108 for him. He scored the sole knockdown of the bout in the fifth round, dropping Doheny with a strike to the body.
“I’ve gotta be honest with you, I don’t really care what people think. People can love what I do or hate it. It really doesn’t matter to me. I care about the performance I put in and making sure that it’s the type of performance I want it to be.”
With the WBA Interim Featherweight crown in his possession, it set up a WBA World title fight with Nottingham’s Leigh Wood. Conlan started the fight brightly, scoring a knockdown in the first round and continued to dominate until the later rounds when Wood came back into the contest more. Conlan went down in the 11th round, it was scored as a knockdown despite protests from Conlan's corner. In the 12th round, with Conlan ahead on all the scorecards, Wood knocked out Conlan, who fell through the ropes to the outside. This handed Conlan the first defeat of his professional career.
Conlan bounced back with two successive victories against Miguel Marriaga and Karim Guerfi, which led to another shot at a world title against Luis Alberto Lopez for the IBF crown. In front of his hometown crowd, Conlan suffered his second career defeat via an uppercut which led to Conlan’s corner throwing in the towel. In the aftermath of the fight Conlan stated that he veered away from the gameplan, trying to stay on the outside but Lopez was able to close the distance and Conlan paid the price.
“I wasn’t at the races against Lopez, I couldn’t seem to get going and paid the price for it.”
Since his loss to Lopez, Conlan decided to part ways with head coach Adam Booth. Conlan travelled to Miami on a test run with Cuban trainer Pedro Diaz, plus other trainers including Buddy McGirt and Jorge Rubio and admitted he was given a tough decision to make as he was impressed by all three.
But it was Diaz, head coach of the Cuban team at four Olympic Games and legendary world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux, whom Conlan gelled with. Conlan will train in Miami with Diaz at his Mundo Boxing facility in preparation for his return to the ring against Jordan Gill at the end of the year.