Steven Donnelly into Olympic welterweight quarter-finals
STEVEN Donnelly said "anything is possible" after he reached the Olympic welterweight quarter-finals with a split-decision win over Mongolia's Tuvshinbat Byamba.
The All Saints, Ballymena star built on his impressive first round victory over Algeria's Zahir Kedache last Sunday with another confident display of slick movement and boxing skill against the awkward Byamba.
"In the first round I was just getting into it," he said.
"You have a look at your opponent - see what he's good at and what he's bad at - and try certain things and see how his reaction is. That's what I did. I used my jab and in the second round I was warmed up and more illusive and it paid off - he started to walk onto my shots then.
"Anything is possible, the dream is still alive. In Russia, when I was 49kg the same weight as Paddy Barnes, Zaur (Antia, Ireland coach) said to me: 'one day you'll be Olympic champion' and here I am now at 69kg and in the quarter-finals. Anything is possible."
Donnelly started on the front foot and Byamba struggled to cope with his tempo or movement. The Ballymena man found the target with his ramrod left jab and landed stinging bodyshots and right hands to win the round 10-9 on two of the three judges' scorecards.
He dominated the second as well, backing up his jab with two-punch salvos and switching from orthodox to southpaw to keep his opponent at bay. However, going into the last the contest was level with two of the judges while Donnelly was two points ahead with the third.
He fought in bursts, moving in and out of range, in the final round and though Byamba had some success when he planted his feet, Donnelly's hit-and-move skills earned him a deserved win.
The All Saints ABC fighter will now face Morocco's Mohammed Rabii in the quarter-finals. The rhythmical Rabii, the current world elite 69kg champion and number one seed in Rio, who lost the second round but raised the tempo to take a unanimous points win against Kenya's Nduke Okwiri in a round of 16 clash refereed by Omagh's Mickey Gallagher.
"He's a classy operator," said Donnelly.
"He's the world champion and he's not that for no reason.
"But I believe in myself and I'm going to give it everything - we'rennot called the fighting Irish for nothing. I'm going to go in and give it my all, we've nothing to lose now and everything to gain.
"I was the first Irish boxer up so I knew I had to raise the spirits of the camp and get the ball rolling. I did that and now, after the bit of bad luck over the past few days, I needed to get the spirits up again.
"Now it's up to Brendan Irvine on Saturday and then Mick Conlan and Katie Taylor. We're still in this competition and we're going to be there right to the end."