Michael Conlan, the Irishman who went into the Olympics as the sixth seed in the flyweight division, has now guaranteed himself a medal with a thrilling quarterfinal win against France’s Nordine Oubaali at the ExCel Arena in London.
Oubaali was competing in his second Olympics; in 2008 he surprised many people with the way he almost pulled an upset in Beijing against local favorite – and eventual Olympic gold medalist Shiming Zou, with the fight being scored a draw at the end of three rounds and having to go to a jury. He was also a bronze medalist in the light flyweight division in the 2007 World Amateur Championships.
So this was not going to be easy for Conlan, and indeed it wasn’t.
But he had a little history in his favor.
Conlan, who has won two Irish national titles at flyweight, went into the 2011 World Championships as an underdog, but shocked many with a 20-17 win over Oubaali to make it to the quarterfinals and thus qualify for the Olympics. In his next match he almost got a step further, but lost by a point (25-24) to Andrew Selby of Great Britain (Wales).
The scoring was tied after the first round. And although Oubaali was extremely aggressive in the second, letting his hands fly, he could get no better than even on the scorecards after two stanzas because of Conlan’s counter-attack.
Conlan got closer to Oubaali in the final round, and started to gain some of the advantage in scoring blows. It was time to separate himself from his foe, and with the crowd cheering on wildly, that’s exactly what he did. With the big crescendo at the end, Conlan won a 10-6 edge in the third for a final tally of 22-18.
This is Ireland’s third medal in boxing, with the other two having been clinched by bantamweight John Joe Nevin and women’s lightweight sensation Katie Taylor. Next up for Conlan is Robeisy Ramirez, who beat second seed Andrew Selby of Great Britain in the quarterfinals, thus spoiling what would have surely been an historic matchup for the UK crowd to ponder.