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Irish star Conlan wins again on St. Patrick's Day in NY
By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK (AP) The party starts long before the fight when Michael Conlan comes to New York on St. Patrick's Day.
But in the midst of his latest victory celebration at Madison Square Garden, Conlan was thinking about a loss.
He wants revenge for a defeat while an amateur, and the way he looked Sunday, he sure seems ready to get it.
The former world amateur champion and two-time Olympian from Ireland returned to the arena where he made his pro debut two years ago on the holiday to blow out Ruben Garcia Hernandez by unanimous decision.
Conlan (11-0) won in a shutout, with all three judges giving him every round of the 10-round featherweight bout for scores of 100-90, with the flag waving and singing in the crowd resuming even before the scores were announced.
"Ireland built New York. Ireland is in New York tonight!" Conlan said.
Darting in and out and side to side, fighting mostly out of the southpaw stance but switching occasionally to right-handed, Conlan simply outclassed Hernandez (24-4-2) while piling up a lopsided advantage in punches.
But there were brief boos during his post-fight interview when he was asked about Vladimir Nikitin, who beat him in a disputed decision in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics. Conlan was enraged afterward, accusing the international boxing federation of being corrupt and extending his middle fingers to the judges at ringside.
His promotional company, Top Rank, has been building toward a professional rematch between the two. They fought on the same card for the second time, with Nikitin running his professional record to 3-0 with a victory over Juan Tapia.
"Vladimir, I know you're here tonight. We need to do it again," Conlan said. "We need to have that rematch. I need to right a wrong that shouldn't have been written."
Nikitin, who was so injured after his victory over Conlan in Rio that he couldn't continue in the tournament, also is eager to run it back.
"The Conlan fight will happen eventually," he said. "That is what we both want."
Conlan turned pro after that loss and made his debut with a victory at MSG on St. Patrick's Day in 2017, when fellow Irishman and UFC star Conor McGregor helped escort him to the ring. He won five times that year and five more times in 2018, and the Irish fans were ready for his first fight of 2019, with seemingly entire sections of green in the crowd of 3,712 in the Theater.
There was some damper on the Irish spirits when Oscar Mojica (12-5-1) edged two-time Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes by split decision in a bantamweight bout. Barnes (5-2) started bleeding from what he said was a broken nose in the first round and went down after a body shot in the second, but fought back furiously to nearly pull out the victory.
He said afterward he would probably retire.
In the other main bout on the card, veteran Luis Collazo (39-7), a former welterweight titleholder, edged Samuel Vargas (30-5-2) in another split decision.
Updated March 17, 2019