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Conlan can't wait to have a cut at elite

OUR boxing Olympians are a diverse lot. Each with a unique story. But, depending on the luck of the draw, each with a solid chance of winning a medal.

None one wants to be drawn against the top favourites in the early rounds. But then the top favourites might not be too happy to find themselves pitted against either John Joe Nevin or Michael Conlan.

Belfast flyweight Conlan comes from a boxing dynasty. His father John is coach at the St John Bosco Club in west Belfast. His older brother Jamie, three times Irish amateur champion, remains unbeaten in the professional ranks. When he's not training with the Elite squad in Dublin, Michael is in the ring at John Breen's gym in Belfast sparring with Jamie.

"He's physically stronger," says Michael. "Sometimes he's mentally stronger because he's my big brother and he has that over me. But it's good to spar him."

When he's with the squad, Michael spars with bantamweight Nevin and light flyweight Paddy Barnes, both veterans of the Beijing Olympics. "You couldn't get any sharper because they're both lightning fast," says Michael. "And they're very strong."

Conlan is not lacking in confidence. To the expert eye, it's not misplaced. Conlan is hugely talented. When the Irish team were in Turkey for the final qualifiers, Conlan and Nevin, having already qualified, took part in a multi-nations tournament in Kiev.

"I had two fights," says Conlan. "I fought the world's number three from Azerbaijan. I thought I won but I didn't get the decision.

"I know I'll beat him in the Olympic Games. I fought a Ukrainian guy. I beat him 24-12. I hammered him round the ring.

"Because I lost the first fight, it made me want to win the second fight even more. That's why I went out and destroyed the Ukrainian.

"I've fought in Germany as well last month. I had two fights. I fought the World bronze medallist at 49kg.

"He was at the last Olympics. He beat me on a count-back. And I fought one of the Turks. I beat him handy and I dropped him as well. So I was happy with that.

"I've been in the furnace. My sharpness is still there."

Does the possibility of a bad draw worry him? Not a bit.

"I don't think anybody will beat me in the Olympics," he says. "It doesn't matter who's in my weight division.

"Muhammad Ali could be in my weight and it wouldn't bother me. If I perform, I know I can beat anybody. I'm not going there worried about anyone. It's just another competition for me. It's going to be one fight at a time."

Like each boxer on the Irish team, Conlan understands the fickle nature of boxing and boxing decisions. Joe Ward has been his room-mate on international duty.

"The odds for Joe Ward to win an Olympic medal were unreal and he didn't even get to go to the Olympic Games," says Michael.

"Anything can happen in boxing. That's the fun of it. Joe was unlucky to draw a Turk in Turkey so early in the competition. I lost to the Azerbaijan guy and it's a learning curve. I know what I have to do the next time. It's good to get losses out of the way before the Olympic Games. I lost there. I don't like losing at all. It's driven me on. I don't want to lose."

In his first year as a boxer, Conlan won an Ulster Novice title. Now Olympic gold is what he wants.

"I just cant wait to get in and get it on and come out the best in the world," he says.