Belfast’s latest world champion boxer was always a well mannered and charming young man who knuckled down after facing major setbacks, it has been revealed.
Michael Conlan, 23, was crowned Ireland’s first men’s AIBA world champion after a unanimous points victory over Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev in their bantamweight final in Doha on Wednesday night.
His father John Conlan is his full time boxing coach.
“He was a great kid,” he said of his son.
His other sons Jamie, 28, is a reigning European champion, Brendan, 26, is an Irish champion, while Sean Paul, 21, passed up the gloves in favour of graphics design at university.
“I trained them all very young in the fundamentals,” he said. “Michael always showed plenty of talent.”
He trained them from about age seven with Michael starting to box formally aged 11 at Clonard Boxing Club.
“From an early age Michael had something special, a little bit of flair – you can’t teach it.”
Later Michael served his time as a tiler, although he is now a full time athlete.
“He is very smart,” John said. “From a young age he was always buying and selling, wheeling and dealing. We don’t know where he gets it from.
“He would buy a bike one day and then sell it a few days later for a profit.”
A defining moment in his career and character, John says, was an Ulster seniors boxing match where Michael was “on the wrong side of a very bad decision”.
“But instead of getting upset he pushed on and within two months was Irish Elite Champion. A further six months later he qualified for the 2012 London Olympics.”
He is ecstatic about his son’s achievement.
“It is massive. This is the first time an Irish male boxer has won a world title in amateur boxing and the first Northern Ireland fighter to hold Commonwealth, Olympics, European and World titles at the same time.”
Michael and his wife Shouna became a father and mother seven months ago, with their daughter Lusine.
Frank Maskey, principal of Corpus Christi School in west Belfast, said anybody who knew Michael all said the same thing.
“They remember him as one of the most charming young men in the school,” he said. “He was clearly remembered for all the right reasons. He had very good manners and was from a very good family.”
He has visited the school at least three times to speak to the students since he left, Mr Maskey said.
“When he was here as a student he was actually seen as being somewhat shy and reserved. The school only found out by accident that he was boxing. There was no boasting from him.
“Now, the boys here just adore him and very much see him as one of their own. He is a good role model for them to look up to for what he has achieved and how he projects his image.
“He is always full of words of encouragement for the boys, advising them to stay on a good course.”