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Newry's Conor Wallace targets world title after passing Irish exam

Conor Wallace with St Monica's, Newry coach Owen Murphy after winning the Irish Third Level title on Saturday
Neil Loughran

NEWRY middleweight Conor Wallace has his sights set on global domination after qualifying for the World University Championships in Thailand in October.

The tall southpaw - representing Southern Regional College (SRC) – was in complete control as he saw off Loughrea’s Ryan Dervan (NUI Galway) in the semi-final of the Irish Third Level Championships on Friday night.

And he saved the best for Saturday’s final at the National Stadium when, watched by the rest of Ireland’s High Performance boxers at ringside, Wallace stopped Oran Shields from Letterkenny IT in the final round to book his place at the World Championships in Chiang Mai.

“There was a bit of extra pressure with the rest of the team watching on there,” said the 19-year-old, who fights out of the St Monica’s, Newry club.

“The lad on Friday night, Ryan Dervan, has won a couple of Irish titles in the past but had taken a year out and I think that maybe told on him because I was a bit sharper.

“In the final I felt very good. I gave him a count in the second round and then in the third I put the pressure on and forced the stoppage.

“This year is all about getting more fights at senior level and international experience, so the Worlds in Thailand is something to really look forward to. I can’t wait.

“It’s great for the college too, and I have to thank my lecturer Mark Copeland for sorting me out with SRC gear and of course my coach Owen Murphy.”

It has been a whirlwind 12 months for Wallace, who was crowned Irish intermediate king back in October before seeing off the likes of 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Connor Coyle en route to the Irish Elite final at the first time of asking.

In the decider he put in a strong performance against European Games gold medallist and world number three Michael O’Reilly.

And Wallace admits he “probably showed him a bit too much respect” as the Portlaoise stylist lifted his third Irish Elite title in-a-row.

He said: “I started a bit too slow on the night.

“It was probably just nerves being on the big stage and the fact I was fighting the world number three. If I was to do it again I’d be more confident.

“I’ve been sparring the likes of O’Reilly and [Irish light-heavy champion] JP Delaney at the High Performance and when you’re training with the best, all you can do is improve.

“There’s a Lithuanian team over at the minute and all that brings me on. It’s experience I need because I’m still young - I’m only into the set up.”

Wallace will be joined at the World University Championships in Thailand by Old School’s Gary McKenna - representing Monaghan Institute - who took the Irish lightweight title with victory over Darnell Laffin (Cork Institute of Technology).

Marime’s Olympics dream floored

BERNALDO Marime has spoken of his devastation after the Holy Trinity fighter’s Olympic dreams were left in tatters before a single punch was thrown in anger.

The Mozambique native, who lives in Coalisland, was due to compete in the African Olympic qualifiers in Cameroon last week, with hopes high that he could secure a spot in Rio this summer.

However, an administrative mix-up left him and several of the Mozambique team stranded at Maputo International Airport, with last-gasp attempts to book a flight to the Cameroonian capital Yaounde coming too late to make the weigh-in.

“It’s really disappointing,” said Marime, who competed at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

“We were told they were just waiting on tickets, so we just kept training and training. The next thing the girls’ team left, and there was only two days to go until weigh in. We just thought we would be going after, but the next day they told us they didn’t have enough money to send us.

“My dad was going to buy a ticket for me but it was too late by then to make it for the weigh-in.”

And the 21-year-old is confident he would have qualified for the Games.

He added: “I trained really hard.

“It would have been easy to qualify because I’ve beat a couple of the boys already. I’ve beat most of them. I think I would have qualified, and that was straight to the Olympics.

“The Olympics is the dream, just to be called an Olympian would be brilliant. But what can you do?

“I was just one step away from it, and then nothing, so it’s very annoying.”

Left Hooks

A County Antrim select edged past Belgium 5-4 at the Dockers Club last Friday night, following some top class action.

Patrick McLarnon (BABA) set the tone with a split decision win over Omer Ersoz in their Youth 1 46kg showdown. Eirinn Rocks (St George’s), Dylan Taylor (Clonard), Seamus Og Deeds (Emerald) and Holy Trinity’s Caoimhin Hynes notched further wins for Antrim. Sionnan McKenna (Holy Family) and Carly McNaul (Holy Trinity) both boxed Belgian opponents in exhibition matches.

The County Antrim board will be delivering more international action for fighters next month when a team heads to Paris for the prestigious Montana Belts tournament (April 13-17), while a youth select will take on Spanish opposition in Alicante from April 22-24

AN Irish training camp with Lithuania will conclude on Thursday, before several of the country’s top boxers head to Assisi in Italy next Monday for a 10-day camp ahead of the European Olympic qualifiers in Turkey.

Reigning Irish Elite champions Brendan Irvine, Dean Walsh, David Oliver Joyce, Michael O’Reilly, Darren O’Neill, Michaela Walsh and Katie Taylor are all building towards qualification bids in Samsun next month.

The top three males in each of the 10 weight classes in Turkey qualify for Rio 2016. The finalists automatically qualify and the losing semi-finalists box-off for the third Olympic place.

The top two females in the three Olympic weights – flyweight, lightweight and middleweight – qualify. Holy Family, Belfast’s Walsh competes at flyweight, while Taylor will be hoping to defend her lightweight title in Brazil.

MEANWHILE, it was confirmed over the weekend that, should Taylor qualify, former Irish head coach Billy Walsh will be plotting her downfall with the American women’s team.

US lightweight Mikaela Mayer booked her place at the Rio Games on Saturday when finishing top of the pile at the Americas qualifier in the Argentine capital Buenos Aires.

Also through is American bantamweight hope Shakur Stevenson, who could face Irish world champion and gold medal favourite Michael Conlan.

FORMER European Elite champion Ray Moylette suffered a split decision defeat to Uzbekistan’s Ikboljon Kholdarov over six rounds in Tashkent, Uzbekistan at the weekend.

The St Anne’s BC, Mayo fighter lost the AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) bout 58-56, 58-56, 56-58 to the Uzbek light-welter.

Moylette has now fought twice in APB this year. Boxers with at least two APB fights under their belts this season qualify for the upcoming APB versus World Series of Boxing (WSB) Olympic qualifiers at a date and venue to be confirmed in either late June or July.

The APB versus WSB showdown will be the final qualifier for Rio 2016.

THE Irish boy 1, 2 and 3 Championships begin at the National Stadium in Dublin on Tuesday, March 29.

Weigh-ins will be held at provincial venues, from 9am-11am on Thursday.

Ulster and Antrim: White River Hotel, Toomebridge (officials in charge, Larry Morrison and Paul McMahon).

Connacht: The Dalton Inn, Claremorris (officials in charge, Joe Hernon and Joe Hennigan).

Leinster and Dublin: Ringside Club, National Stadium (officials in charge, Pat Ryan and Paddy Osborne)

Munster: Fairgrove Hotel, Mitchelstown (officials in charge, Stephen Connolly and Larry Durand).

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