Three boxers who competed in the Rio Olympics – Ireland’s Michael Conlan (pictured) and Steven Donnelly and Great Britain’s Anthony Fowler – have been given “severe reprimands” by the International Olympic Committee for betting on fights at the Rio games. According to the IOC, “there was no intent to manipulate any event.” Their punishment consists of participating in “integrity education programs.”
Michael Conlan, a 2012 Olympic bronze medalist, was the favorite to win the bantamweight competition in Rio. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals by Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin, an outrageous decision in the eyes of most witnesses.
Conlan did not bet on fights involving himself, but did place bets on fights in his weight division. None of his wagers exceeded $300 in U.S. dollars and they all lost. Conlan told IOC investigators that betting was a hobby of his and that he made the wagers as an antidote to the boredom of the Olympic Village.
Steven Donnelly bet against himself in his match with Mongolia’s Tuvshinbat Byamba– not in a straight wager, but he had Byamba in two of his accumulator (parlay) bets. The Irish welterweight said that he bet against himself as a hedge of sorts; as a way to cushion the disappointment in the event that he lost. He beat Byamba, advancing to the quarterfinal round where he lost a split decision to Morocco’s Mohammed Rabii. Donnelly made eight bets altogether, all of which were of the “toothpick to win a lumberyard” variety. He lost them all.
The IOC did not release the particulars regarding the third fighter, Anthony Fowler. A middleweight from Liverpool, Fowler was eliminated in the opening round.
Of the aforementioned, Michael Conlan has the highest profile. There was a great uproar when he lost to Nikitin. The Russian was a 7-1 underdog at UK betting shops. When the decision was announced, Conlan looked in the direction of the judges and raised his middle finger. In the post-fight interview on live TV, he labeled AIBA, the governing body for amateur boxing, a bunch of “cheating bastards.” Those sympathetic to Conlan were vindicated the next day when Nikitin was forced to withdraw from his next match because of facial injuries and the IOC dismissed several (unidentified) referees and judges, sending them home.
Earlier this month, Michael Conlan, after weighing five other offers, signed a multi-year deal with Bob Arum’s Top Rank firm. Arum subsequently announced that Conlan will make his pro debut next year on St. Patrick’s Day weekend at Madison Square Garden. According to Las Vegas Review-Journal fight writer Gilbert Manzano, Conlan may have his friend Conor McGregor, the UFC superstar, accompany him into the ring.