Irish boxing will be looking for six of the best today as six Irish fighters battle it out for places at the London Olympics at the 2011 AIBA World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan this morning and afternoon.
European light-heavyweight champion Joe Ward, the St Michael’s Athy BC pair of Roy Sheehan and David Oliver Joyce, Darren O’Neill, Michael Conlon and John Joe Nevin are all just one win away from reaching the quarter-finals and securing places at the 30th Olympiad.
Tipperary’s Con Sheehan, meantime, will face Italy’s 2008 Olympic gold medallist and two-time World champion Roberto Cammerelle in the last-16 today.
However, super-heavyweights must reach the semi-finals to secure Olympic berths.
O’Neill, a teacher at the Holy Trinity school in Dublin, Joyce and Nevin advanced to today’s eliminators following wins over Egypt, Afghanistan and India yesterday.
But Irish captain Ken Egan, a silver medal winner at the 2008 Olympics, bowed out. The Dublin southpaw was retired by the Irish corner 1 minute and 20 seconds into the third after being forced into a standing count by Cuba’s Jose Larduet Gomez in the heavyweight class.
Larduet-Gomez was adjudged to have been 23-11 up versus Egan, who had a fine second round, going into the final stanza.
“He worked me out very quickly. I was attacking, catching him with counters,” said Egan.
“He boxed well. He caught me with some great shots.
“There was nothing I could do, I gave it everything I had. I know I’m good enough to be up at this weight. It’s all a work in progress. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”
Belfast light-flyweight Paddy Barnes, a bronze medal winner at the 2008 Olympics and the 2010 European champion, also exited following a shock 20-12 defeat to Mark Anthony Barriga of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, O’Neill was involved in an edge-of-the-seat middleweight clash, the Paulstown BC southpaw edging a tough 75Kg duel with Mohamad Hikal of Egypt 15-13.
He’ll now meet Bulgaria’s Mladen Manev today in a repeat of the 2010 European Championships clash which O’Neill won 6-0 en route to a silver medal in Moscow.
Cavan bantamweight John Joe Nevin denied India’s Akhil Kumar the opportunity to qualify for his third Olympic Games with an impressive 21-14 verdict.
Lightweight David Oliver Joyce, who was a convincing 26-13 winner over Mohammad Khaiber of Afghanistan yesterday, summed up the mood of determination in the Irish camp.
“I’m buzzing at the minute because my next fight will be for a place in the Olympic Games. I’ve been there four years ago, trying to qualify. When I got beaten in Athens it was the last qualifier.”
Article courtesy of Bernard O’Neill, IABA Public Relations Officer