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Boxing

Kane Tucker keen to grab chance to impress John Conlan and book place at Commonwealth Youth Games

Newry middleweight Kane Tucker has clocked up plenty of international experience in his short career to date
Neil Loughran

HE might not get the chance to catch the eye of Ulster High Performance supremo John Conlan at the Commonwealth Youth Games competition, but Kane Tucker hopes he can make enough of an impression in the weeks ahead to book his place in the Bahamas this summer.

The action got under way at Belfast’s Dockworkers’ Club last night and continues tomorrow before the finals are held on Friday, as young hopefuls from across Ulster aim to make a case for their inclusion in the Northern Ireland squad that heads for the Caribbean from July 18-23.

With no entries at middleweight other than his own, Tucker was handed a walkover after weighing in on Sunday morning.

Having prepared diligently for the competition, the Holy Trinity fighter would have loved the chance to trade leather before Conlan’s watching eyes, but knows he will get the chance again.

Indeed, the Ulster coach is already aware what Tucker brings to the table having seen him at close quarters during a Jordanstown training camp prior to the U18 World Championships last autumn.

At 16 - he turns 17 in March – the Newry boxer would be one of the younger competitors at the Commonwealth Youths if he makes it on to the team, but Tucker feels he is ready for the step up.

“That’s not really a consideration for me because I’d be strong enough and I’d feel comfortable enough,” said Tucker, whose younger brother Jake is also very highly-rated by the coaches at Holy Trinity.

After Friday’s finals, Conlan is expected to run the rule over potential candidates for his team. He took five fighters away to Samoa in 2015 and they returned with three gold medals, two silvers and a suitcase full of memories.

Team NI is expected to send a team of five boxers again, and Tucker admits it is a big ambition to be on that plane to the Bahamas.

He said: “It would be great to get that international experience for when I do become senior, because down the line you’re looking at the senior Commonwealth Games and the Olympics. That’s where you want to be.

“I know there’s a long way to go yet, but it’s something I’d love to be a part of.”

Tucker has had plenty of good sparring at the Turf Lodge with 2015 Ulster Elite champion Caoimhin Hynes, now campaigning at middleweight after moving up from welter for the recent Irish Elite Championships.

Clocking up the rounds with Hynes has been a learning experience in itself for Tucker, but the 20-year-old is also quick to offer friendly advice when he feels it is needed.

“Say we’re sparring, Caoimhin would stop the spar and tell me what I’m doing wrong and teach me how to do the right thing. So we’re not just sparring, he’s teaching me as we go along - he’s been a great help.

“Mickey and Harry Hawkins and all the coaches in Holy Trinity have really worked on the technical side of boxing, but I’ve noticed moreso an improvement in my strength and conditioning with Aaron Donaghy up in Ultra Fitness in Banbridge.

“He’s really improved my punching power, and I feel I’ve come on a lot since I’ve been at Holy Trinity.”

Tucker’s fellow Holy Trinity fighter Kian Bittles is among those already into the final on Friday, with the flyweight waiting to find out who he will meet in the decider.

The same applies to Immaculata flyweight Caitlin Fryers who will be hoping to make it to the Bahamas in the first year that female boxing is included.

COMMONWEALTH YOUTH GAMES COMPETITION

Tonight (Dockworkers’ Club, 8pm)

Quarter-finals

Light-welterweight (64kg)

C Ross (Dockers) v T Stokes (All Saints)

E Vuskans (Glengormley) v N Mongan (Cavan)

J Hamilton (Ormeau Road) v S Donaghy (St Canice’s)

C Jennings (St Monica’s)/J Taylor (Oliver Plunkett) v D McNally (St Monica’s)/T Duffy (Clonard)

Semi-finals

Light-flyweight (49kg)

L Glennon (St Joseph’s) v S Kelly (Dunfanaghy)

C McCourt (Clonard) v J Moran (Illies GG)/D Toland (Phoenix)

Flyweight (52kg)

JP Hale (Star) v C Maguire (Castleblayney)

Bantamweight (56kg)

C Murphy (St George’s) v B Newland (St Canice’s)

L McKee (Star) v B Ferran (Clonard)/R Farrell (Ledley Hall)

Lightweight (60kg)

D Carlin (Clonard) v K McDonald (Larne)

M McLaughlin (St Mary’s, Derry) v C Renaghan (Keady) v D Bradley (Errigal)

Holy Trinity middleweight Caoimhin Hynes stole the show in Woking last weekend when he scored a spectacular first round knockout win over England's Eugene Kingsley

LEFT HOOKS

Heavy-hitting Holy Trinity middleweight Caoimhin Hynes scored a spectacular first round knockout in an international clash with England last Friday night.

As part of a 10-strong Irish team, 2015 Ulster Elite champion Hynes stole the show as a huge overhand right floored Eugene Kingsley at the Hilton Hotel in Woking, outside London.

It was a good night for the visitors as Ireland scored a 6-4 victory – although technically one of the English wins did come from an Irishwoman, with 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Alanna Audley-Murphy – who is based in England – getting the better of Cheyanne O’Neill at light-welterweight.

Elsewhere, current Irish Elite heavyweight champion Martin Keenan beat Tom Welsh, with welter Peter Carr edging Alfie Winters in the fight of the night, Rhys Moran beating Liam Forest, Thomas O’Toole defeating Ben Hall and Frankie Cleary handed a walkover victory.

England’s wins came when Sammy Khan beat Tommy Casey on a split, Ebony Jones had too much for Tiegan Russell and James Bauer got the better of Cian O’Shaughnessy at super-heavyweight.

IIIIIIIIIIIOOOOOIIIIIIIIIII

A COUNTY Antrim select is to go toe to toe with Derry at Belfast’s Lansdowne Hotel on March 23 (7pm start).

With 20 bouts scheduled, it promises to be an action-packed night featuring some of the top up-and-coming talent in the north.

Bill as follows (Antrim names first)

B1 39kg: K Smith v P Stokes

B2 35kg: M Doherty v C Weatherall

B2 36kg: C Browne v T Brolly

B2 42kg: E Loughran v DJ Doherty

B2 46kg: J Diver v E White

B3 36kg: M McClintock v B Cooke

B3 44kg: P McCleary v C Gormley

B3 46kg: J O’Donnell v M McElwee

B3 46kg: C McCann v P Convery

B3 48kg: C McMahon v T Glennon

B4 48kg: E Burns v P Clarke

B4 50kg: B Johnston v S Stokes

B4 52kg: T McCann v E McFaul

B4 57kg: M McGregor v H O’Donnell

B5 39kg: M O’Doherty v S Neeson

B5 53kg: J McArdle v C Conwell

B6 63kg: T Henry v E McLaughlin

B7 49kg: C McCourt v L Glennon

B7 58.5kg: K McDonald v C Toland

B7 60kg: C Irvine v M Boreland

IIIIIIIIIIIOOOOOIIIIIIIIIII

OLD School’s Aaron McKenna is the only Ulster representative on the Irish team that heads to Russia next Monday for the prestigious Nikolay Pavlyukov Youth Memorial in Anapa.

Despite his tender years, Smithboro 17-year-old McKenna is a veteran of well over 200 amateur fights and the light-welter will fancy his chances of delivering a strong showing at a tournament viewed as a ‘mini World Championships’.

Galway’s World Youth bronze medallist Gabriel Dossen is also on the team as the stylish welterweight sets his sights on another podium finish in international competition.

Also on the Irish team are bantam Nathan May (Dublin Docklands), lightweight Eamer Coughlan (Riverstown), light-welter Patrick Donovan (OLOL), welter Jason Harty (Rathkeale) and middleweight Tommy Hyde (Setanta).

Robbie Redmond is Irish team manager, while Billy McClean and Fergal McKenna are the coaches.

Team Ireland will train and spar with the host country, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Scotland and a number of other nations at the Black Sea port before the opening bell for the prestigious competition on March 14.

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