Caoimhin Hynes and James McGivern end County Antrim wait for Paris joy

County Antrim coach Mickey Hawkins with Caoimhin Hynes, James McGivern and Seamus Og Deeds at the Montana Belts tournament in Paris
Neil Loughran

IT is four years since County Antrim last came back from the prestigious Montana Belts tournament with a leather strap, but they made up for lost time at the weekend when Caoimhin Hynes and James McGivern both topped the podium in Paris.

Immaculata’s JD Meli landed back-to-back titles in the French capital in 2012 and 2013, with Hynds and McGivern ending the drought on Saturday after a gruelling three fights in three days.

Two months after flattening his opponent in the first round of an Ireland v England international, heavy-handed Hynds was at it again in his first bout in Paris.

Having slipped a jab just 20 seconds after the first bell sounded, he unloaded a left-right combination that sent his French opponent to the canvas. Although he managed to get to his feet, the referee waved the fight off.

Another Frenchman was defeated in the following day’s semi-final before Hynds negotiated his way past a tough Swede in the final to take the middleweight title.

“I’m boxing well at the moment so I’m just hoping to keep it going,” said the Holy Trinity banger.

“I feel a lot stronger, I’ve been doing a lot more strength and conditioning to build up into 75 kilos, but I’m starting to mature now. I’m 20 and I think I’m starting to get my man strength.

“I’ve been hurting people in sparring and a few top boys have been saying I’ve been hitting hard. I have confidence in my power as well now, I’m using it correctly, I’m not going out swinging and thankfully I’m seeing results.

“Against the French guy in my first fight, it was pretty much the first punch I threw. He looked the part when he came out, he was a lot bigger than me, but I just caught him clean and that was it.”

On Saturday’s final, he added: “The guy I fought was tough enough, he put a lot of pressure on me, but I caught him in the second and dropped him.

“He was wary of my power as well but he was very game, he just kept coming for the three rounds so I just stuck to the game-plan.”

Working the corner was Hynes’s club coach Mickey Hawkins, and he also helped guide McGivern to a first major win on the international stage.

The talented St George’s fighter missed out on the European U22 Championships last month but looked on top form en route to top honours.

Having moved up from 56 kilos to 60, McGivern is hoping this can kick-start a big year, with the 19-year-old heading to Poland on Monday as part of the Irish team competing in the Feliks Stamm tournament.

He said: “It was good to get out and get a bit of the ring rust off.

“I boxed well up at the new weight and I felt good, felt more like myself. Instead of always being tight at the weight I made it handy every day so when the fights came around I was ready to rock and roll, so I’m happy enough.

“I fought a Romanian in the final and he just kept coming forward, kept the head down and just swinging punches. But Mickey and myself got the tactics perfect, we just kept him on the end of the jab and picked him off as he was coming forward.

“He was tough, he didn’t take a backwards step, but guys like that are my bread and butter.”

And McGivern is hoping for more of the same in Warsaw next week at a competition where the likes of former world heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis have excelled in years gone by.

“It’s a big deal,” said the 19-year-old. “There’s always strong nations at it - it’ll be a tough competition but I’m looking forward to it.”

Coach Hawkins was understandably delighted with the performances of Hynes and McGivern, but was also impressed by the other members of the County Antrim team who didn’t make it to the latter stages.

He said: “The boys all did very well.

“It’s a tough tournament, and the secret is boxing. You’re not going to get through three fights in three days if you don’t box well, because there must have been at least 20 guys pulled out with cuts.

“Aidan Walsh fought a very good Italian boxer and lost a split decision, it really could have gone either way, and the same with Dee Sullivan against another strong Italian opponent. Many thought he had won the fight.

“Conor Quinn stepped up to 56 kilos from 52 and gave a good account of himself against a tough French opponent who just didn’t stop coming. He only lost on a very close decision, so they can all be very happy with how they performed.”

It was a family affair for All Saints Boxing Club, Ballymena at the National Stadium last Friday. Conhuir Johnston (pictured second from right) took the national Boy 1 46kg title in Dublin, defeating Carndonagh’s Ben Clarke in the final, and he is pictured with uncle and All Saints coach TJ Hamill - a former Ulster and Irish champion who boxed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. The family links didn’t end there as 11-year-old Rhys Wright won the Boy 1 52kg title, 29 years after dad and club coach Sammy Wright won an Irish title at the same age. This is the first time in the club’s 55-year history that a father and son have both won Irish titles

It was another successful weekend for Maydown Olympic ABC. Following on from the Ulsters the previous week, the Derry club landed two Irish titles at the national Boy 1, 2, 3 championships in Dublin. Ben Cooke (pictured left) beat Carson Hanlon from Mullingar in the Boy 2 38.5kg final, while Òran Carton came up trumps in the Boy 2 43kg weight class. Also pictured are club coaches George Gormley and Sean Devenney. It is a huge achievement for the club which has only been opened for two years, with Cooke and Carton their first Irish champions. They now go on to the national cadet championships in June hoping for a repeat performance


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