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Boxing

Retaining Zaur Antia 'massive' for Irish boxing says Sean McComb

Zaur Antia has agreed to remain as Irish head coach until 2021. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

ZAUR Antia’s decision to remain as the head of Irish boxing is “massive”, according to two-time national champion Sean McComb.

The Georgian has been the subject of lucrative offers from other nations in recent months, with the boxing associations of Azerbaijan, Canada and Saudi Arabia all keen on securing his services.

However, the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) yesterday confirmed that Antia, who lives in Wicklow, had committed his future to Irish boxing for the next five years.

And McComb, a bronze medallist at the 2015 European Games, said he would have considered his own future in the amateur game had the highly-regarded coach gone elsewhere.

“It’s massive news,” said the Holy Trinity light-welter, one of the leading lights in the High Performance unit.

“I’m delighted – if Zaur was away, I probably would have gone myself to be honest. From a technical point of view, there’s nobody who could come in and do as good a job as Zaur.

“That’s why Azerbaijan wanted him. They’re already a top, top nation and they still wanted Zaur to make them better again. That shows you how good he is.”

Antia, who has also been heavily involved with the women’s High Performance system in the past 18 months, said he was “delighted” to commit his future to Ireland.

“Ireland has been home for my family and I for the last 13 years and I am delighted that we are in a position to stay,” he said.

“I am also very excited about remaining part of the Irish High Performance system. We are, as is normal after any Olympic Games, in a period of transition but there remains a significant amount of talent and potential in the system.

“I am also looking forward to becoming more involved with the women’s programme and feel that the medals we won at the recent World and European Championships is evidence of the strides made in women’s boxing here.”

Former Irish amateur stars Andy Lee and Paddy Barnes were among those to tweet their support for Antia yesterday, while IABA chief executive Fergal Carruth said the Georgian’s decision was a “vote of confidence in the future of Irish boxing”.

“I am thrilled that we have managed to fight off some tough competition from other countries to retain the coaching expertise of Zaur within the Irish High Performance programme,” said Carruth.

“He has been an integral part of all the success achieved by Irish boxing since his arrival in 2003. His decision to stay is a vote of confidence in the future of Irish boxing and in the significant talent within the system across our men’s and women’s programmes.”

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