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James McGivern ready to show he has what it takes at the top level

The only Irishman ever to win a boxing gold medal at the Olympics, Michael Carruth, was in Belfast last week when he brought a team from his Drimnagh club to face Holy Trinity. He was joined by brothers William and Martin, and showed off his medal – won at the 1992 Games in Barcelona – to all the young fighters. Carruth also renewed acquaintances with Michael Hawkins, who was one of the Irish coaches at his first Olympics in 1988. Picture by Matt Bohill
Neil Loughran

AS far as introductions to the world of elite boxing go, they don’t come much tougher than what faced James McGivern last May.

Fresh from taking home the lightweight crown at the Montana Belts competition in Paris, the St George’s fighter headed to the prestigious Feliks Stamm tournament the following week in high spirits.

But, paired with Sofiane Oumiha in Poland, McGivern soon knew he was now mixing with the big boys.

“It was different for me because I’m used to going into the ring a million per cent confident, feeling like ‘I’m going to walk through this fella’,” he explained.

“But there I was a bit wary. You knew you were stepping up a level.”

Frenchman Oumiha was already an Olympic silver medallist in Rio, and would go on to take the 60kg crown at August’s World Championships in Hamburg.

Yet, despite shipping a unanimous decision, McGivern emerged from the fight with huge credit – especially considering he was only just beginning his transition from talented youth to the senior ranks.

“Looking back at the fight, I felt it was relatively close. It wasn’t like he was beating me up at any stage,” said the 20-year-old.

“It was all in my head really – I gave him far too much respect. If we were to fight again, I wouldn’t be too nervous.”

First up though, he continues the step up to senior level at the Eindhoven Box Cup as part of a five-strong Irish team leaving for the Netherlands tomorrow.

Any international experience is a bonus at this stage of his career, but McGivern makes no bones about the fact that he is now building towards the Ulster Elite Championships next month.

With a large entry expected, the 60 kilo division is shaping up to be competitive, with 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sean Duffy confirming he is coming down from 64 in a bid to make it to the Gold Coast next April.

Former Irish champion Stephen McKenna – like McGivern, a 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games gold medallist – is also expected to enter the Ulster elites at lightweight, though there has been some talk of a possible move to light-welter.

Considering he won the Irish Elite Championships at light-flyweight less than two years ago, his physical development has been incredible, and he gave Kurt Walker a tough fight in last year’s Irish bantamweight decider.

McGivern, however, insists he is ready for whatever comes his way.

“The whole championships in general will be competitive because everybody wants to get to Australia,” he added.

“I was at the Youth Games – I’m not sure if any Irish fighter has ever won gold at the youth games then gone and won gold at the senior games. It wouldn’t be bad doing that.

“I started training for these in the middle of summer, so I’m more than ready for them.”

Indeed, last week he was in camp with the Irish youth squad at Jordanstown, training under the watchful eye of Irish head coach Zaur Antia and Ulster High Performance coach John Conlan.

And sparring sessions with Holy Trinity pocket rocket Barry McReynolds and lightweight rival Eamer Coughlan have ensured he travels to the Netherlands in top condition.

“Barry’s a great kid, strong as a bull, and Eamer is just in your face non-stop,” said McGivern, who lost out to Coughlan at the Irish U18 Championships last year.

“Me and Eamar are actually good friends, we get on really well - he’s just a pain in the a**e to spar because he doesn’t stop coming forward.

“So, in terms of technical work and conditioning, I’m in a good place.”

Conor Quinn won the bantamweight title at the Ulster seniors last week, and now turns his attentions to the elites, where he will return to the flyweight division


AN Ulster senior title in the bag, Conor Quinn will now turn his attentions to the elite championships next month where he bids to stake a claim for a place in the Commonwealth Games team bound for Australia.

The Clonard ace moved up a weight division to 56kg to ensure he got at least one fight, and came through a tough scrap with Raphoe’s experienced Dennis Lafferty in last Friday night’s final at the Dockers club.

But Quinn will move back down to his more familiar flyweight for the Ulster elites, where he will be in the shake-up with Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine among others.

“He was a tough lad so I just tried to box and move, keep it long,” he said of his win over Lafferty.

“It was my first time boxing in the intermediates, and it will be my first elites. I was glad to get a couple of fights in the space of a couple of days to get me ready for that because I’m still pretty new to senior level.

“Brendy’s an Olympian, a European bronze medallist earlier this year, so the way we’re looking at it is if you’re going to the Commonwealth Games, you want to be there for a reason. If you beat Brendan Irvine in a qualifier, you’d know you were in pole position for a medal if you did go to Australia.

“We want the toughest test possible.”

Also in Friday night’s Ulster senior finals, Cookstown enhjoyed double success as Teo Alin took the 60kg title, defeating Curtis Griffin (Eastside), while Ryan Cleary landed the middleweight crown, beating Carrickmore’s Conal Deeney.

Matthew McCole scored a unanimous victory over Spartans’ Colm Trengrove at light-welter, and the 69kg final saw Dominic Donegan (Carrickmacross) edge a split decision against Owen O’Neill (St Michael’s).

At light-heavyweight, Cathal Brown (Illies GG) beat Noel Donnelly (Dockers), while Pearse McDonnell brought the heavyweight title back to the Star club after beating Letterkenny’s Michael McConighey.

In the 91+kg class, Patrick Rodgers (St John’s) beat Dean Scullion (Loughshore) on a split decision.

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