‘McGregor should have won that hands down’ was a tweet sent our way from one of our MMA cousins as soon as Micheal Conlan was announced as RTE Sports Personality Of The Year for 2015.
That sentiment has been echoed by a number of MMA and UFC fans over recent days.
The other fight fraternity believe that the featherweight’s World title winning antics, and the part he played in bringing UFC to the spotying fore were worthy of the prestigious award.
No doubt the aforementioned achievements could have earned the former Crumlin boxer the honour any other year bar this the year of Conlan!
Now we are certainly not out to slate UFC or McGregor, indeed here ar Irish-boxing.com Towers we are big fans of both and we certainly rejoiced in the Dub’s success – A success a certain Phil Sutcliffe Snr can certainly take some credit for
However, we couldn’t see past Conlan for this year’s award and below is our reasoning explained.
Both The Notorious and Conlan made history this year achieving World firsts for Ireland.
However, while both were trailblazers to a degree, the Belfast fighter followed a well-worn path that had a massive road block right before the pot of gold. It’s like comparing Premiership football history to the history of football pre and post 1990.
Codified MMA is a relatively new sport, where records are just being established, while Conlan was competing with decades of talent in his history-making project.
Conlan achieved what no other male Irish fighter could becoming Ireland’s first World male amateur champion since the tournament’s inauguration in 1974.
Dozens of respected and talented Irish pugilists had entered World Championships at various weights throughout history and won no medals to set of the metal detectors before boarding the plane home.
Kenny Egan, Paul Griffin, Wayne McCullough, Paddy Barnes and many more names failed to fight their way to the podium come World Championship time.
Indeed before this years installment of the contest only Tommy Corr, Michael Carruth, Damaen Kelly, Stephen Kirk, James Moore, Joe Ward, Jason Quigley and indeed the man deemed by some as our greatest every John Joe Nevin – twice – were our only World medalists. All those medals bar Quigley’s were bronze and winning gold always seemed a far-fetched dream until Conlan.
He trumped the achievements of some of Ireland’s greatest ever sportspeople as he claimed World honours.
And achievement is an important word to note here. The award is based upon the achievements of the sports person in question, things such as following, earnings, and coverage should not factor into any judgement.
Won Gold in the most difficult boxing tournament on the planet
It would be a massive exaggeration to suggest McGregor’s World title success came down to 13 seconds. His victory over Jose Aldo was the coming together of years of hard work.
However, it boiled down to one fight, one punch and one win and while it was a sensational achievement against a fight legend that deserves respect, in terms of the RTE Sports Personality of the Year award Conlan’s route to World glory was much more taxing.
The World Championships is the hardest of all boxing tournaments to medal in. It’s packed with top quality and unavoidable talent which comes tick and fast over a difficult week. Indeed this year’s edition of the tournament was the hardest ever with the introduction of qualifying criteria. No longer could any country send a boxer and places now had to be won at continental championships
To claim his World crown Conlan has to defeat four opponents. Three of the foes he faced and defeated where ranked in the World top ten. Not to mention he beat all four-the best at the weight their country had to offer- in a seven day fight marathon and had to make weight between each fight.
That’s four top class opponents, three top 10 foes, four fights, 12 rounds, seven days and one World Championship gold.
Showed personality in abundance
Admittedly McGregor has more charisma than the top 10 greatest Irish sports stars combined. He has global appeal and has been talked about more than Santa Claus this December. The Dubliner has also given his combat sport a massive shot in the arm first putting it on the back pages – before bringing it to the front pages – in style.
However, Conlan has shown sporting personality in abundance over the last 12 months.
The Belfast star is more driven than the bus from Belfast to Dublin! Being successful and the best at what he does appears to be main motivation and he deserves the respect that brings.
Conlan elected to fight in the World Series of Boxing for free in a bid to qualify for Rio 2016, but once an Olympic berth was secure he didn’t give his gloves and body a break.
The star with pro ambitions post-2016 entered both the European Games and the World Championships with the sole intention of banking more golds and making history. The World’s are spoken of by most boxers as a path way to the Olympics and the majority of World Championship speak and rhetoric revolves around qualification for the massive tournament.
However, the young father traveled to Doha to prove that he was the best amateur bantamweight in the World. Similarly he entered the European Championships with no Rio agenda and instead in a bid to secure more medals for his mantlepiece and more international success for Irish boxing.
Not quite in McGregor fashion, but Conlan does also bring a bit of glitz and glam to the amateur game. It could come from being so close to Paddy Barnes, but he is part of a new generation of amateur stars that talk with a lot more confidence than their predecessors.
Gone is the talk of going to tournaments to do well and it has been replaced by Conlan and those around him predicting tournament victory. Indeed not only did the World champ tell us he would prove himself the best at his weight in the World he has told us he will go on to claim gold for Ireland in Rio.
It’s a legacy of confidence and an un-defeatist attitude that could serve Irish amateur boxing well even after Conlan has had a successful pro career.
There is nothing more enamoring than a winner who overcame adversity.
We love the Hollywood feel and rejoice when our sports stars and ultimately award winners to battle through some troubles en route to success.
Now Conlan’s hasn’t like Danny Jacobs come back from a life threatening injury to win a World title, but he has come through some difficult periods over the last 12 months.
Indeed, Conlan went into his final WSB fight knowing his place in Brazil hung in the balance following a controversial, and incorrect, technical decision loss to Kariat Yeraliyev that should have been ruled a TKO win for the Irishman. Requiring a minor miracle to qualify, Conlan seriously contemplated withdrawing ahead of his clash in Venezuela. However he elected to fight, and would win comfortably while at the same time a shock result in Puerto Rico clinched him a spot in Rio.
The approachable Belfast star then also beat adversity in his World Championship decider.
With less than a minute to go in his final with Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan Conlan was sent to the canvas by a big right hand. Instead of seeing stars silver medals might have flashed in Conlan’s eyes, but the brother of pro Jamie Conlan, who showed heart and desire runs in the family in his clash with Junior Granados, doesn’t do silver and rose to his feet and survived to make history.
Mick Conlan v Conor McGregor
World Series of Boxing (Jan 17th-April 18th) – 2nd Place
Loss – Magomed Gurbanov (Azerbaijan)
Won – Garibaldi Gomez (Puerto Rico)
Won – Sylwester Kozlowski (Poland)
Loss – Kairat Eraliyev (Kazakhstan)*
Won – Francisco Martinez (USA)
Won – Ignacio Perrin (Argentina)
Won – Jose Diaz (Venezuela)
European Championships (August 10th-15th) – 1st Place
Won – Anthony Brett (France)
Won – Frederik Lundgaard Jensen (Denmark)
Won – Francesco Maietta (Italy)
Won – Qais Ashfaq (England) (Gold Medal)
World Championships (October 8th-14th) – 1st Place
Won – Robenilson de Jesus (Brazil)
Won – Tayfur Aliyev (Azerbaijan)
Won – Dmitriy Asanov (Belarus)
Won – Muradzhon Akhmadaliyev (Uzbekistan) (Gold Medal)
Fulfilled Olympic Qualification criteria TWICE.
*incorrectly deemed a technical decision loss after the fight was stopped due to a cut, caused by a Conlan punch, on Eraliyev.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Won – Denis Siver (Germany)
Won – Chad Mendes (USA)
Won – José Aldo (Brazil) (UFC World featherweight title)
Fastest World title win – 13 seconds