Middleweight Darren O’Neill, bantamweight Joe Joe Nevin, and Michael Conlan are through to the quarter-finals of the AIBA World Boxing Championships after victories in the last 16.
The wins qualify both boxers for the Olympics in 2012.
O’Neill defeated Mladen Manev of Bulgaria in the last 16 to make the last eight.
Nevin, the 2009 bantamweight world bronze medallist, followed O’Neill into the last eight with victory over Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu of Mongolia.
However, European light heavyweight champion Joe Ward has sensationally lost out in his bid to progress further in the World Boxing Championships in Baku.
O’Neill became the first Irish boxer to qualify for the London Olympics with a powerful winning performance in Baku.
His clash with Mladen Manev from Bulgaria was a repeat of a European meeting in Moscow last year, when O’Neill beat the Bulgarian and went on to win a silver medal.
Today he emphasised his superiority with a forceful performance right from the first bell as he barraged his opponent with fast jabs from a distance.
His body punches were equally strong, which gave the Kilkenny man a 6-4 lead at the end of round one.
The second round was even more impressive from O’Neill as he picked off his opponent with that long reach. Manev, to his credit, tried to get close to O’Neill. However, Manev suffered as the Irishman caught him superbly with left and right hooks. At the end of the second it was 13-9 to O’Neill.
The third round was all about holding firm and that’s what O’Neill did as the Bulgarian had no other option but to go chase the Irish man.
While Manev scored points, O’Neill’s long reach was vital as the Bulgarian left himself exposed, leaving O’Neill to win 19-12.
O’Neill’s win put him through to the last eight of the World Boxing Championships, but also guaranteed his plane ticket to London for the Olympics next year.
John Joe Nevin came good with a late surge in his 56 Kg Bantamweight clash with Mongolian Dorjnyambuv Otgondalai and what a fight it was.
Nevin won it on a countback when the score at the end of the third round was 18-18. The tension was palpable as everybody in the Heydar Aliyev Sport and Concert complex in Baku waited for the final result. And the relief was immense as Nevin was awarded victory and hugged Irish coach Billy Walsh in celebration.
The bout was level 4-4 at the end of Round 1 but Nevin had to endure a standing count after going down to what seemed like an inocuous enough punch.
Round 2 was even more intense and once again the referee gave Nevin a standing count – his second of the contest and by the time the bell sounded the Irishman was now trailing 11-13.
Round 3 was pulsating as Nevin found his best form and picked off the Mongolian with some beautiful left and rights and had the speed subsequently to get out of the way of the Mongolian’s counter attack.
And that effort proved enough as Nevin was awarded victory after a countback to book his place at the London Olympics in 2012.
Afterwards he spoke to RTE Sport and said: “I am absolutely delighted to be heading to London and to my second Olympics.”
In losing, Ward has also lost his chance to guarantee himself a place in the London Olympics next year. Ward was beaten by Iranian Ehsan Rouzbahani following a countback in his last 16 bout this morning.
It was a disappointing performance by the 17-year-old from Moate for all form suggested that the Westmeath teenager would win this battle.
But the Iranian had only one plan: to upset and ruffle Ward and to that end he succeeded.
At the end of round one it was 4-4, but even then it appeared that Ward was not punching well. Round two was a slugfest, but sadly for the Irishman, he picked up a public warning which cost him an valuable two points. By the end of the second it was 12-8 in favour of the Iranian.
It was a real battle now as Ward and Rouzbahani went into the third round knowing it was all or nothing.
Ward produced the goods, connecting with strong body punches, but also catching the Iranian with left and right hooks.
The Iranian got three warnings from the referee – Ward received none before his public warning – before the Iranian finally got a public warning and two points awarded to his opponent. Irish hearts lifted and as the seconds ticked away the Iranian was holding on for dear life.
It ended 15-15, but the countback gave the result to the Iranian Rouzbahani, despite four of the judges giving the last round to Ward.
In an interview with RTÉ Sport after the fight, Joe Ward said he was “devastated, but in all honesty I only have myself to blame…I didn’t box well and I didn’t implement the game plan. I suppose I will learn from this and be better next time”.
Ward will now concentrate on the nationals in the New Year and the next and final qualifying tournament for the London Olympics in Turkey in April 2012.
Michael Conlon joined Darren O’Neill and John Joe Nevin in earning his place on the plane to the 2012 Olympics with victory in his last 16 fight. The Belfast boxer enjoyed a 20-17 success.
David Oliver Joyce, Con Sheehan and Roy Sheehan have all been beaten in their last 16 bouts in Baku.
Joyce, who produced a superb performance to beat Mohammad Khaiber of Afghanistan in the previous round, went down 32-30 to Jai Bhagwan of India.
Con Sheahan lost out to Roberto Cammarelle of Italy. The Irishman was losing 17-10 when his corner threw in the towel in round three.
Roy Sheahan was also beaten, going down 11-7 to Egidijus Kavaliauskas of Lithuania.
* With the exception of the super heavyweight division, the boxers who have been beaten in the last 16 have not lost all hope of direct qualification to the London 2012 Olympics through their Baku exploits as they can also qualify if the boxer who beat them make it to the final of these championships.