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Back in the day - Feb 16 1998: Eamonn Magee and Damaen Kelly score quick wins in London

Eamonn Magee scored quick win against Bulgarian opponent

IT was a case of “Ireland 2 Rest of the World 1” as three Irish fighters met with varying fortunes on Saturday night’s European title bill at the Elephant and Castle in London.

Belfast prospects Damaen Kelly and Eamonn Magee scored quick wins against opponents from Bulgaria and England respectively.

But cruiserweight Ray Kane was an unfortunate injury loser to Reading’s unbeaten Michael Sprott.

At light-welter southpaw Eamonn Magee came back after an eight-month break, and also looked good in halting Stepney’s Dennis Griffin in two rounds.

Magee has now won 10, eight inside schedule, against a single loss, and is quite clear about his goals; “Another fight or two, then I want to go for the Commonwealth title,” he said.

Magee was up against a tough, aggressive opponent, but showed good footwork and effective, solid counter-punching. Griffin backed his man up against the ropes but Magee stayed cool and never stopped countering.

Flyweight Kelly, a former outstanding amateur, certainly impressed with his two round dismantling of Hristo Lessov.

The Bulgarian looked altogether bigger and more solidly built, but Kelly pressed forward from the outset and quickly found his way inside.

Lessov tried to move, and keep things at long range, but he couldn’t keep Kelly off and a left to the chin knocked Lessov’s head back dramatically in the closing moments of the first. Kelly kept up the pressure in the second, and Lessov tried desperately to hold but Kelly was landing virtually at will.

The Bulgarian was taking stick in a neutral corner when referee Richie Davies stepped in after two minutes 29 seconds.

“I felt good,” Kelly said afterwards, “I was much more relaxed, and there was more movement of the head which I’d been working on.”

It was Kelly’s fourth straight win, three inside the distance, and he certainly looks worth watching.

For Dublin’s Ray Kane, the bad luck continued – having won his first ten, he slumped to his fifth straight loss when an injured right shoulder forced him to retire after just one round against Michael Sprott.

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BELFAST southpaw Pat O’Donnell failed narrowly to secure a European championship place when he lost out in the quarterfinals of the A Comert qualifying tournament in Istanbul at the weekend.

The 22-year-old Dockers feather, Ireland’s last rep in the Turkey event, went down to Scotland’s Alex Arthur on a 6-4 computer scoreline. Irish champion O’Donnell, with his coach Paddy Fitzsimmons in the Irish corner, beat Cergei Nikiton (Belarus) by nine points in his opening bout. With Ireland handing out a heavy defeat to Scotland in Dublin on February 6 hopes were high of an in-form O’Donnell progressing to the medal stages.

But at the end of a low scoring bout it was Arthur who triumphed. Mayo light heavy Adrian Sheerin went agonisingly close in his quarter-final contest in Istanbul.

After five tightly contested rounds victory went to Dimitri Zbrovimir (Austria). Sheerin had handsomely beaten Henton Hydec (Slovakia) in his first contest of the tournament but a computer score flashed 9-8 against him when it mattered most.

Holy Trinity middleweight Brian Magee is the only Irish boxer safely through to the Euro event in Minsk, Belarus.

But Ireland can still add to the team with a further two qualifying tournaments, in Germany and Italy, to determine the eventual Euro line-up.

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HISTORY has been made – the Budweiser Superleague title is on the way north for the first time in the 28 years history of the National Leagues. Star of the Sea are champions with still two rounds to go but the Belfast boys are untouchable.

Even before yesterday sweeping win over Dungannon at Maysfield the title was Star’s as Tralee pulled off a shock win on Saturday night over Notre Dame.

Star, led by their influential captain Adrian Fulton, were cheered on to the court before the match but then slipped into their normal high-powered action to beat Dungannon by 110-90 and show they could win the honours on their own.

“We didn’t want it to be said that somebody else won the National League for us – we wanted to do it on our own” said coach Danny Fulton.

The winners were without John Leahy who watched the action from the bench because of his injured wrist. It’s unlikely that the American will play in the remaining two games against Tralee and Neptune but will instead give the damaged limb a proper chance to heal before the Top Six championship in Cork next month.

Dungannon, still needing another win to make certain of qualifying for the Top Six, did their best to stop Star yesterday but in the end the home side was just to powerful for the Tyrone men.

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