IABA Press Officer Bernard O’Neill
Three-time Irish Elite champion Ross Hickey has acknowledged the task ahead of him at the final Olympic qualifier for European male boxers in Trabzon, Turkey in April.
Barring injury, Hickey, a bronze medal winner at the 2008 European Championships in Liverpool, will wear the Irish light-welterweight vest by the banks of the Black Sea.
However, there is just one Olympic quota place left in the light-welterweight class, meaning that the stylish Grangecon BC ace will have absolutely no room for error and will have to claim gold.
However, the Irish champion reckons he will be up to the task.
“I have to win it, there is no second place. Winning is the only thing that I am thinking about now. I have to give it everything and I believe that I can do it,” he told the Kildare nationalist.
Hickey, an Irish army private, was on familiar stomping ground when he took part in the recent Elite training camp at the Irish army base at the Curragh in Kildare.
The intensive boot camp finished up last Friday and 25-year-old Hickey praised sports psychologist Gerry Hussey and the Irish army.
“He (Gerry Hussey) gets our heads right for tournaments. He gets stuff going. He helps a lot, it gets me focused on what I want to do in the ring.
“There sessions a day, it’s tough. After the morning run it would be either shadow boxing or sometimes we went down to the tank tracks doing army drills.
“Normally though, it would be shadow boxing outside then back in for breakfast. It would be training again at 10.30am, maybe some weights or sprinting and then another session in the afternoon.
“Some of the boys were asking about a few things that were going on and what was happening so I able to fill them in.”
“They (the Irish army) gave me time to concentrate on my boxing and I’m very grateful for the support that they gave me.”
The Irish champion also believes that retaining his Irish title in Olympic year was special.
“You can’t beat the first one, that is the one that gets you going and it’s what you trained for. This was special though because I defended it.I feel like a real champion after retaining the title. It’s an Olympic year as well so it’s the hardest title to win and as champion you are one that everybody is training to beat.”
*AIBA confirmed recently that there had been an exchange of Olympic quota places between the European and Asian qualifiers. Likewise, there are now just four berths available in the light-flyweight class in the European qualifiers, down one place from five, and two places available in the middleweight class, up one place from one.
However, the middleweight category will be of academic interest to Ireland in Trabzon as Darren O’Neill has already qualified for the Olympiad in this category.*