IABA Press Officer Bernard O’Neill
THREE European Senior gold medals and three places secured at the London 2012 Olympics were just some of the highlights of the Centenary year of the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
The opening shots of what was to prove to be another eventful 12-months for Irish pugilism were discharged at the 2011 Elite National Senior Championships at Dublin’s National Stadium in February.
Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Adam Nolan, Sinead Kavanagh, Katie Taylor, Joe Ward, Darren O’Neill, Con Sheehan, Michael McDonagh,John Joe Nevin and Cathal McMonagle were amongst those leaving the home of Irish boxing with Elite belts adorning their waists.
Ward, who would go on to become one of the youngest European champions in the history of the sport aged just 17, the minimum age requirement for senior boxing, denied Ken Egan an 11th title in-a-row following an incident packed 81Kg duel at IABA HQ.
In April, Katie Rowland, Michaela Walsh and Austeja Accueita took home three bronze medals from
the 1st AIBA World Women’s Youth and Junior Championships in Turkey.
In May, 2008 and 2010 World Youth champions Ray Moylette and Ward secured double gold at light-welter and light-heavy at the European Championships in Turkey following 18-10 and 20-12 decisions over England’s Thomas Stalker and Russia’s Nikita Ivanov.
Those victories, a year after Paddy Barnes finished on top of the European light-flyweight podium at the Ice Palace in Moscow, helped Ireland finish in second spot in the rankings table behind powerhouses Russia.
John Nevin, Luke Thomas and Martin Conroy took three bronze medals from the European Junior Championships in Hungary in June. Later that month one of the most inspirational stories of the year was unfolding at the European Schoolboy Championships in Grozny, Russia.
Twelve months previously, young John Joyce (Moate BC) was cruelly denied a place in the 41.5Kg final of the European Schoolboy Championships in Bulgaria following a highly controversial 1-0 “defeat” to Ivan Dubovik of Russia.
Such was the outrage regarding that result, that Joyce, who boxes out of the same club as Joe Ward, was presented with the Boxer of the Tournament Award.
Accepting the accolade he vowed that he would return and win gold at the 2011 European Schoolboy Championships. He remained true to that vow as 12 months later he finished in pole position in Grozny. James Cleary and Matthew Burke won silver the same day.
Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, President of the World amateur boxing organisation AIBA, attended 2011 the European Youth Championships, the flagship tournament of the IABA’s Centenary year,
at the Citywest in Dublin in August.
Ireland claimed five medals in total at the Citywest, with Stephen Broadhurst, Jack Morrissey and Joe Fitzpatrick settling for triple bronze following semi-finals defeats. Michael O’Reilly and Gary Sweeney reached the 69Kg and 81Kg finals.
But there was double disappointment on August 27 when O’Reilly was somehow adjudged to have dropped a 16-15 verdict to Russia’s Igor Kharitonov and Sweeney narrowly lost to Kharitonov’s compatriot, Vladimir Korsunov.
Ireland travelled to the AIBA World Senior Championships and first major Olympic qualification tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan with quite confidence following their European campaign.
But there were mixed fortunes on October 4 when David Oliver Joyce, Roy Sheehan, Joe Ward and Con Sheehan lost out just one win away from qualifying for the 30th Olympiad.
Joyce was cruelly denied by a harsh public warning for holding in the final three seconds of his bout with Jai Bhagwan, a warning which handed the Indian lightweight a 32-30 win and a plane ticket to London.
Ward, meantime, was edged out on a countback by Iranian brawler Ehsan Rouzbahani. However, Michael Conlan, Darren O’Neill and John Joe Nevin didn’t need to be asked twice with Olympic places up for grabs.
All three won their last-16 clashes to reach the quarter-finals and secure automatic berths for the London Games. Conlan and O’Neill were beaten in the last-eight.
Nevin, who won bronze at the 2009 AIBA World Championships in Milan, made the semi-finals to become the first Irish male boxer to win two medals at World Championships level.
But the stylish Mullingar bantamweight lost in his quest to become the first Irish male boxer to reach an AIBA World Championships final after a countback reversal to England’s Luke Campbell.
Ireland sent a nine-strong squad to the 8th European Women’s Championships in Rotterdam, Holland in October and Katie Taylor arrived back with her fifth gold medal in-a-row after recording a 10-5 win over Russia’s two-time World champ Sofya Ochigava in the 60Kg final.
Ochigava had “beaten” Taylor 8-1 at the Usti Nad Labem Grand Prix in the Czech Republic in 2010, an outrageous result which suggested that some of the ringside judges were in urgent need of an appointment with the eastern European equivalent of Specsavers.
However, there was to be no victory for the Russian the second time around as Taylor got her tactics spot on to secure her 12th major title.
It was another remarkable victory for the Bray woman, who won her fourth EU title on-the-trot in June courtesy of a 25-9 win over Poland’s Karolina Graczyk in Katowice, Poland. Her points tally in four bouts in five days in Poland was 80 for and 30 against.
Also in October, Tommy Murphy was elected President of the IABA at Annual Congress at the Inishowen Gateway Hotel in Buncrana, Donegal. Murphy, a native of Co. Louth, polled 143 votes. Wexford’s Nicky White, the only challenger, polled 109 votes.
In November, the Ireland and Scotland schoolboy sides drew in Motherwell, while the Irish Elite squad secured five medals at the Olympic Test Event at the Excel Centre in London.
Ken Egan and Con Sheehan won gold, but Conrad Cummings had to settle for silver despite a fine performance against Russian middleweight Maxim Koptyakov in the 75Kg decider.
David Oliver Joyce and Tommy McCarthy took home bronze from the dress rehearsal for the 2012 Olympics. Tyrone’s Michael Gallagher was also presented with the 2011 AIBA World Referee and Judge (R&J) award in London, another historic first for Irish boxing.
Accepting his reward, Gallagher said that it was a very proud moment, adding that he was keeping his fingers crossed that he’d make the R&J panel for the Olympic Games.
If he is selected for the 30th Olympiad – and he is the world number one – it could be a lucky omen for Ireland as Newry’s Jackie Poucher was the last Irish R&J to officiate at Olympic level at the 1992 Games in Barcelona where Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough won gold and silver.
Six Irish boxers also signed up for the inaugural World Series of Boxing (WSB) season in 2010/11. John Joe Nevin, who helped Paris United win out the WSB Team Championships, Ken Egan, Tommy McCarthy, Eamon O’Kane,David Oliver Joyce and John Joe Joyce competed.
Nevin, Egan, Joyce, Con Sheehan, Willie McLaughlin, Sean Turner, Jason Quigley and Patrick Gallagher have signed up for the 2011/12 WSB season which is underway.
The above are just some of the international highlights of the Centenary year of Irish amateur boxing, another successful 12-months for the sport home and abroad.
Ireland’s clubs and coaches, team managers and all coaching and backup staff played their part in what was another successful twelve months internationally and domestically,
The next six months will be a crucial, starting with the Elite Senior Championships at the National Stadium in January and February.
The focus will then begin to switch to the final Olympic qualifier for European male boxers in April in Istanbul and the only Olympic qualifier for female boxers at the 2012 AIBA World Women’s Championships in China in May.
Ireland will be targeting ten places at both qualifiers, seven for men and three for women. It’s all still to play for.