Boxing

Conor Wallace to weigh up options after World University Championships

Newry middleweight Conor Wallace was recommended as a potential Conor McGregor sparring partner by Michael Conlan (right)
Neil Loughran

HAVING developed a taste for the professional lifestyle as a sparring partner for UFC star Conor McGregor in Los Angeles over the summer, rising amateur star Conor Wallace has refused to rule out a switch to the paid ranks.

This time last year Wallace was a virtual unknown but the St Monica's, Newry middleweight burst on to the national scene by reaching the Irish Elite final at the first attempt, before being called into McGregor's camp for his rematch with Nate Diaz.

Despite being inexperienced in boxing terms, his high-profile stint working with McGregor saw the 20-year-old receiving approaches from boxing promoters in the USA about his future plans.

Wallace is currently preparing for the World University Championships in Thailand next month as he bids to end an eventful 12 months on a high note, but admits the lure of the pro game is something he will consider upon his return.

“You always have to keep your options open,” he said.

“Getting that experience out in Vegas, I've got a lot of good contacts now, my name's out there, a lot of people know me. I was at a couple of professional boxing shows, talking to different promoters, so you never know what can happen.

“I'm not saying I'm going to go pro, but I'm leaving my options open. Four years is a long time and a lot can happen between now and then.

“It's all about the right time - you can't miss the boat either. I'll see how I get on in these World Championships and take it from there.”

Coming off the back of an at times shambolic boxing event at the Olympic Games, with questionable refereeing decisions to the fore, young fighters around the globe are sure to be considering whether it is really worth waiting around for Tokyo 2020.

Wallace is no different. Before going to LA, he was dead set on the Commonwealth Games in Australia in two years' time, with Tokyo the ultimate goal. After watching events unfold in Rio de Janeiro though, he is not so sure what the future holds.

What makes it particularly difficult to digest is the fact he could have had a chance to fight for Ireland in Brazil, but Michael O'Reilly got the nod at 75kg despite the reservations of some of the Irish coaches.

O'Reilly never even laced up gloves at the Olympics as a failed drugs test the day before the opening ceremony brought a premature end to his Games.

“Everything that could go wrong in Rio did go wrong - it's very sad and it is disheartening,” said Wallace.

“I was there up until the last Olympic camp over in Azerbaijan, and seeing the work that was put in and to see what happened out there, it was madness.”

With O'Reilly likely to face a suspension of up to two years, Wallace has the chance to take his place as Ireland's number one middleweight at the Irish Elites at the end of the year.

First things first though, he wants to take gold in Thailand.

Along with fellow Ulster fighters Gary McKenna, Kenny Okungbowa, Christina Desmond and Ceire Smith, Wallace leaves for Thailand on September 30 as he heads for the World University Championships in Chiang Mai.

He will represent Southern Regional College at the tournament, which starts on October 3, and Wallace insists he is flying fit after a summer of sun and hard training.

“I'm back to normality, back to the club training with my coach Owen Murphy, we've been training flat out,” he said.

“I'm fit at the minute so the next couple of weeks will just be fine-tuning, getting the weight right, getting myself sharp and ready to go. I'm really looking forward to it.

It's more international experience and that's what I need.

“Over there [in McGregor's camp] it's all down to hard work and it paid off for Conor. He trains like a machine. We all trained hard as well and it paid off in the end.

“We were obviously there to help Conor McGregor but when I wasn't sparring him I was sparring the other lads.”

LEFT HOOKS

The International Boxing Association (AIBA) is to pursue disciplinary action against the referees and judges sent home from the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro for failing to properly officiate fights.

AIBA says "individuals and associated federations have been forwarded to the disciplinary commission for further investigation, with appropriate actions to follow”.

An unspecified number or referees and judges were dismissed during the Olympics after AIBA determined they had not met its standards of competence.

It is understood that Omagh referee Michael Gallagher was one of those whose involved in Brazil was curtailed early as he didn't feature in the final five days of boxing at the Olympics.

AIBA commissions met in Lausanne this week to review the Olympic boxing tournament, in which a handful of questionable decisions led to widespread condemnation of the judging and refereeing.

AIBA says its officials must comply with codes of "respect, fairness, integrity and transparency."

The federation is also considering the introduction of a five-judge scoring system and a review of the certification process for referees and judges.

* THE Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) has decided against sending a team to the European Women's Youth and Junior Championships in Turkey because of the “volatile political situation” in the country.

The tournament is scheduled to begin in Ordu in northern Turkish on September 18.

However, Irish boxing president Pat Ryan confirmed that, following consultation with the IABA central council, it has been decided that Ireland will not compete at the championships.

Ryan said the development plan for Ireland's top underage female boxers includes a number of upcoming international events.

A spokesman for IABA said: “This decision was taken by the IABA in consultation with the parents of the athletes concerned and in the context that a volatile political situation currently exists in the region.

“IABA regrets having to take the decision, but the primary concern is the welfare of its athletes.”

* A TEAM made up of talented Ulster boxers is heading for Philadelphia later this week.

Holy Family coach Damien Walsh is travelling with Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Michaela Walsh, Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist Aidan Walsh, TJ Waite, Jason McKay, Connor Kearney, Carl McKernan, Niall McAlinden, Adam Esdale, Charlie Boyle and Newry's Fearghus Quinn.

* THE national U23 Championships are to be held early next year, it has been confirmed.

The tournament was pencilled in for October 14-15 at Dublin's National Stadium. However, it will now be held in January with dates to be confirmed.

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