LONDON 2012 bronze medallist and AIBA World Elite bronze medallist Michael Conlan and Joe Ward struck double gold for Ireland at the European Elite Championships in Samokov, Bulgaria today.
The Belfast and Moate bantam and light-heavy beat England’s Qais Ashfaq and Peter Mullenburg of the Netherlands on unanimous decisions to mark the third occasion since 2011 that Irish boxing has won two gold medals on the final day of competition at the European Elites.
Conlan, meantime, was celebrating on the double as he also scooped the Best Boxer Award. This is the second time in succession that Ireland has won this accolade. John Joe Nevin won the Best Boxer Award after winning gold in the same weight class at the 2013 Europeans in Minsk.
Ward created Irish boxing history this evening, as the 21-year old is now the first Irish male boxer (Katie Taylor has won six European Elite titles) to claim two top of the podium finishes at this level since he secured gold aged just 17 at the 2011 Europeans.
Considered a veteran even though he’s only 21, Ward, boxing with economy behind his jab and controlling the centre of the ring against Mullenburg, was rarely troubled – except for a last forlorn right from the World Series of Boxing (WSB) fghter boxer on the bell for the end of the fight – en route to a 30-27-30-27,29-28 verdict.
Ward won five fights to nail the top 81kg prize in Samokov.
Conlan took the crucial first round against the Leeds southpaw, an opponent he beat in the 2014 Commonwealth Games final, today.
The was much speculation as to whether the Clonard ABC man would start at orthodox or southpaw, seeing as he has been switching back and fourth in his four fights at the 41st edition of the tournament.
He bagan at orthodox today, but finished up boxing southpaw, but leftie or righty, Conlan always had the look of a man who was never going to be leaving the gold medal behind him this afternoon.
“It wasn’t my best performance, but it was my best performance here this week,” said the new European Elite champion after his victory.
Meanwhile, the medals tables are not out yet, but www.iaba.ie predicts that Ireland will finish in second spot behind Russia.
“It’s an absolutely phenomenal achievement to win two gold medals, a bronze and the Best Boxer Award and once again finish so high in the medals table at such a major tournament. Michael and Joe were excellent today,” said Irish head coach Billy Walsh, who was working Ireland’s corner with Zuar Antia and Eddie Bolger.
“Michael and Joe and the entire squad have been fantastic here and this is another very proud day for Irish boxing.We’re absolutely delighted to be taking home two gold medals from what is always a very competitive and world class tournament,” said team manager Peter O’Donnell.
Conlan, Ward, Dean Walsh, Adam Nolan and Michael O’Reilly, Brendan Irvine, and Sean McComb, who won gold, silver and bronze at June’s European Games in Baku, have now qualified for October’s World Elite Championships and Olympics qualifiers in Doha, Qatar.
Conlan, who has already qualified for the Rio Olympics through the WSB, vowed to win gold in Doha. If he does, he’ll have qualified for the same Olympics – twice!
Team Ireland are due to arrive home from Bulgaria at 4.55pm tomorrow afternoon, August 16th, via Dublin Airport Lufthansa LH2514 16AUG Munich Dublin 1530 1655 (Terminal 1)
All media are invited to attend Sunday’s homecoming.
European Elite Championships 2015
Preliminaries (last 32)
91kg Darren O’Neill (Ireland) beat Tadas Tamasauskos (Lithuania) 2-1
91kg+ Dean Gardiner (Ireland) beat Delalic Abdulnaser (Bosnia & Herzegovina) 3-0
August 8th (last 32)
69kg Adam Nolan (Ireland) beat Onder Sipal (Turkey) 2-0
August 9th (last 32)
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) beat Idris Shakhmonov (Russia) 3-0
91+kg Dean Gardiner (Ireland) lost to Filip Hrgovic (Croatia) 0-3
August 10th (last 16)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Anthony Brett (France) 3-0
64kg Dean Walsh (Ireland) beat Florentin Niculescu (Romania) 3-0
91kg Darren O’Neill (Ireland) lost to Evegeny Tischenko (Russia) 0-3
August 11th (last 16)
69kg Adam Nolan (Ireland) beat Radzhab Butaev (Russia) 3-0
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland beat Nikoloz Selchniashvili (Georgia) 3-0
August 12th (Q/Final)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Frederik Jensen (Denmark) 3-0
64kg Dean Walsh (Ireland) beat Nyeki Georgian (Hungary) 3-0
69kg Adam Nolan (Ireland) lost to Pavel Kastramin (Belarus) 0-3
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) beat Mikhail Dauhaliavets (Belarus) 3-0
August 14th (S/Finals)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Francesco Maietta (Italy) 3-0
64kg Dean Walsh (Ireland) lost to Vitaly Dunaytev (Russia) 0-3
81kg Joe Ward (Ireland) beat Hrvoje Sep (Croatia) 3-0
August 15th (Finals)
56kg Michael Conlan (Ireland) beat Qais Ashfaq (England) 3-0
81kg Joe Ward Ireland) beat Peter Mullenburg (Netherlanda) 3-0