Sean McComb joins Irvine in last four after third win in Baku
SEAN MCCOMB joined Brendan Irvine in the semi-finals of the inaugural European Games after recording his third straight win of the tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan yesterday.
The 22-year-old, like Irvine, is now guaranteed at least a bronze medal.
The Holy Trinity ace was too sharp and too elusive for Turkey’s Yasin Yilmaz throughout the opening two frames.
The Irish Elite champion proved almost impossible to hit in the opening rounds, taking the first unanimously and the second on a split.
Yilmaz edged the third on a split, but that was never going to be enough to stop McComb reaching Friday’s semi-finals.
In the last four, McComb will come up against 60kg favourite Albert Selimov, who won most of his honours, including a World Elite title, with Russia but who is now boxing with Azerbaijan.
Selimov is famous for being the only man to inflict an amateur defeat on highly-decorated Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko, and looked impressive in victory over Bulgaria’s Elian Dimitrov yesterday.
McComb sparred Selimov several times during the Irish team’s 10-day training camp before the Games started and, by all accounts, more than held his own against the 29-year-old.
“It doesn’t matter who you’re fighting – even if he was seven-foot tall,” said McComb of Friday’s opponent after yesterday’s victory.
“There’s a crowd there that obviously works in his favour, but it doesn’t affect me in the slightest. I’m just here to worry about my own performance.”
There was disappointment for Team Ireland later in the day, though, as Wexford’s Dean Walsh and Adam Nolan bowed out to German and English opponents.
Light-welter Walsh was involved in a rough three rounds against Germany’s Kastriot Sopa, with the Irish champion dropping a point after receiving a public warning for reckless use of the head in the second.
Sopa received a stern ticking off from the third man in the ring near the end of the first for ignoring his instructions – but received no warning.
Sopa won rounds two and three, while Walsh claimed frame two. Neither boxer dominated a robust but untidy contest, which the German won on a unanimous decision.
London 2012 Olympian Nolan admitted he didn’t throw enough punches after his defeat to Team GB’s Josh Kelly.
Sunderland-born Kelly needed treatment from the ringside doctor for a gash over his eye in the third round.
Nolan, switching occasionally to orthodox, won that round across the board, but Kelly, –an elusive counter-puncher – split the judges in the crucial first round and all three judges went with him in the second.
It was enough to secure a split decision from a very close 69kg contest.
Following his victory over home favourite Salman Alizida on Monday, St Paul’s light-fly Brendan Irvine is back in semi-final action today against Ukraine’s Dmytro Zamotayev (3pm).
In quarter-final action this morning are 2012 Olympic gold medallist Katie Taylor, who takes on Sweden’s Ida Lundblad (8.45am).
Portlaoise middleweight Michael O’Reilly faces Slovenia’s Alijaz Venko (9.15am), and Irish captain Darren O’Neill is in against Ukraine’s Gevorg Manukian (10am) in the heavyweight division.
MEANWHILE, ENGLAND’S Sandy Ryan silenced a partisan home crowd to guarantee a boxing medal at the European Games in Baku with a split decision victory over Azerbaijan’s two-time world medallist Elena Vystropova yesterday.
The Derby 21-year-old’s career has assumed a remarkable trajectory since she burst onto the scene by taking silver at last year’s World Championships, but this was by far her best win yet.
Undaunted by a series of controversial decisions in the home nation’s favour this week, Ryan set the pace from the start, narrowly dropping the opening round before growing steadily stronger.
Vystropova grew increasingly exasperated in the second half of the fight and was penalised for repetitive holding in the third as she failed to summon an answer to Ryan’s sharper front-foot work.
Even so, one of the three ringside judges still contrived to score in favour of Vystropova, and Ryan’s joyous reaction upon the announcement showed she had also been far from certain which way it would go.
Ryan said: “I was fearing the worst given where we are, because the crowd were all behind her.
“I enjoyed boxing in front of that crowd even though it wasn’t for me – I just took it.
“I’m speechless. You all probably saw that when they announced the winner, I had burst into tears.
“This means so much for me. I am so happy.”
Ryan comes from strong boxing stock – her brother Dave is the Commonwealth super-lightweight champion and also defeated Paul ‘Dudey’ McCloskey in the final fight of the Dungiven man’s career.
And his younger sister hopes to keep his family’s run of recent success going when she faces Russia’s Anastasia Beliakova – her conqueror in last year’s world final – in the 64kg semi-final tomorrow.
But Ryan already has her sights on returning down to the Olympic 60kg category, where she has her sights set on Katie Taylor’s title in Rio.
Ryan added: “I respect Katie and she is a very talented girl. I have looked up to her since I got in the GB squad.
“I have always said I would love to compete against her, and that is my goal.”