Boxing

Sean McComb stuns World champion to move into European quarter-finals

Sean McComb celebrates his impressive victory over Russia's Vitaly Dunaystev in Kharkiv yesterday

SEAN McComb made a serious statement of intent in Kharkiv yesterday as he ousted the reigning World and European champion to move into the quarter-finals of the European Elite Championships.

Vitaly Dunaystev came into the last 16 contest as the bookies’ favourite, even though McComb scored a comprehensive victory over the Russian in a multi-nations round-robin competition in Dublin at the end of April.

But the Holy Trinity stylist started like a house on fire, boxing beautifully to take the first round.

Dunaystev just edged the second but McComb – competing in his first major international tournament as a light-welterweight – resumed control in the third.

After a nervy wait, the 24-year-old’s hand was raised as he moves into a last eight date with England’s Luke McCormack, and the opportunity to secure at a bronze medal at least.

Perhaps more importantly, yesterday’s win also guaranteed his spot at the World Elite Championships in August as the top eight boxers in each weight class compete in Hamburg.

Coach Michael Hawkins admitted his nerves were shredded awaiting the official decision, but was delighted to see the 2015 European Games bronze medallist fulfil his potential on the big stage.

He said: “Sean boxed absolutely brilliantly.

“I wasn’t surprised but you’re always on tenterhooks when you’re watching your own boxer. I said to him last night ‘just go out and enjoy it, do what you do best’.

“It looked like Sean was the World champion there. I’m delighted for him. He’s more comfortable at 64 now, he’s enjoying it, and now he has to carry that form on.

“It’s alright winning today, but he has to win again on Wednesday. That’ll have done his confidence no harm whatsoever.”

Brendan Irvine brought further joy to Irish boxing fans when he had too much for Turkey’s Bathuhan Citfci, the 21-year-old St Paul’s fighter winning a unanimous decision.

However, there was disappointment for Tipperary super-heavyweight Dean Gardiner after he was stopped in the second round by home favourite Viktor Vykhryst.

Looking to follow the lead of Irvine and McComb today is Canal’s Kurt Walker.

The talented bantamweight impressed in defeating Georgia’s Severiane Childaze on Saturday, but faces a tough task against Tayfur Aliyev.

The 20-year-old Azeri landed a bronze medal at the last European Games, losing at the semi-final stage to the same man who had earlier ended Walker’s campaign in Baku – Russia’s Bakhtovar Nazirov.

But three-time Irish elite champion Walker is hoping to take over from Michael Conlan as Ireland’s 56kg of choice, and victory would lay down a serious marker, as well securing his place at the Worlds.

Three are three other Irishmen in action today, with defending champion Joe Ward – the number one seed at light-heavyweight – expected to book his place in the quarter-finals with a win against Slovakia’s Matus Strnisko.

Dublin middleweight Emmet Brennan caught the eye when defeating Poland’s Bartosz Golebiewski on Saturday but – like Walker – faces a huge step up in class today against another Azeri, Kamran Shakhsuvarly.

The 24-year-old picked up a bronze medal at last summer’s Olympic Games in Rio, and was a silver medallist at the European Games.

Finally, 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill is in against Ramazazaqn Musilimov of the Ukraine in the last 16 of the heavyweight competition.

Jamie Conlan joins Clonard coaches, boxers and fundraisers at the official opening of the club's new premises last week. Picture by Mark Marlow

CLONARD LOOKING TO THE FUTURE AFTER OFFICIALLY OPENING NEW CLUB

AFTER four years of waiting, putting up with pigeons flying through the old building they called home, Clonard Boxing Club finally opened the doors to their new premises last week.

An old NIE substation at the corner of Beechmount Avenue/Gortfin Street was identified in 2013 and has been turned into a state-of-the-art boxing club thanks to funding from Sport NI and Belfast City Council.

And for Paddy Graham jr - part of a coaching team that includes his father Paddy sr, brother Peter, Tony Park, Paul Donnelly and Michael O’Neill – it represents “the start of a new era”.

“It’s still the same faces, the same boxers, the same commitment in the club, but we have better facilities now,” he said.

“This building was an old run down substation, it had been lying idle and had become a magnet for anti-social behaviour. People were tortured but since the idea of a boxing club came up, it’s gone from there.

“We have great coaches, but I also have to mention two wee men who are always there – Seamus Collins and Bobby Moore. Those two guys you just couldn’t do without.”

When Clonard was re-formed in 2001, pioneered by the late Patrick ‘Scobie’ McParland, Graham made a promise that the club would never fall by the wayside again.

He added: “I always told him I’d make sure the club kept going, and here we are.

“We now have a memorial award every year, with the ‘Scobie’ McParland Cup going to the junior boxer of the year.

“We’re a good club. In the last few years, Conor Quinn was at the World Youth Championships, Gerard French was at the Europeans. There was four or five years there we never had an Irish champion, now we have one or two every year.

“We had to set our age group at nine. It had been seven but we had so many kids coming through the door we had to take names and start a waiting list basically because, at the minute, we would have about 60 boxers from small kids right up.”

Last Tuesday night, current WBC Silver super-flyweight champion Jamie Conlan was on hand to officially open the new club, where brother Michael started and finished his hugely successful amateur career.

As recognition of his contribution to Clonard, his image adorns the fence outside, and Graham says it is “a big honour” to be associated with such an important figure in the world of boxing.

“He started with us when he was eight or nine and had a couple of fights but he went with his daddy to the Bosco.

“Then the last two or three years of his amateur career he came back to us, came back to his roots, and he put our club on the map.

“When he won gold at the Worlds, he boxed for Clonard. It was a big honour for us.”

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