Boxing

Sean McComb incident had no impact on boxers insists Kurt Walker

Kurt Walker comfortably dealt with Lesotho’s Moroke Mokhotho yesterday to advance to the semi-finals of the Commonwealth Games. Picture by Hugh Russell

KURT Walker insists the controversy surrounding Sean McComb’s involvement in a nightclub altercation at Surfers Paradise had no bearing on the other boxers who were preparing to step between the ropes yesterday.

McComb, joint captain of the Team NI boxers, has been banned from areas of the Gold Coast after being issued with an infringement notice after police were called to a disturbance at the Sin City nightclub around 2.45am.

The Holy Trinity light-welter exited the competition on Sunday after a close last 16 bout with England’s Luke McCormack.

Walker, who has been rooming with McComb at the athletes’ village, only found out about the incident yesterday morning, and says it had no effect on the five fighters – including himself – who were in action.

“No, f**k,” said the 22-year-old.

“All that’s a load of rubbish. Hopefully it all gets sorted out.”

It certainly didn’t detract from Walker’s performance, as he boxed superbly to defeat Lesotho’s Moroke Mokhotho – the only surprise being that Fijian judge Seru Whippy somehow favoured the crude work of Mokhotho, making it a split decision result.

The Canal counter-puncher admitted he felt a bit rusty in his opening victory over Australia’s Jack Bowen, having last boxed in the World Championships back in August, but felt much sharper yesterday.

He said: “I felt good, I felt relaxed, but I feel like I’ve another gear in me yet.

“I was a bit tired in the second round but in the first and third I was sweet – I don’t know what happened, I just got a second wind I suppose.

“There’s always that risk of getting caught – it doesn’t matter how good or how bad they are, you have to be switched on because if one of those lands you’re in trouble.

“But the better the opponent, the better I perform. I love getting out there, it’s good craic, it’s hard to get the buzz away.

“I’m just happy to get it done… see all the messages I’m getting, it’s mad. But I can’t complain - it’s better than not getting them.”

Next up for Walker in Friday’s semi-final is 19-year-old Canadian Eric Basran, who impressed en route to a straightforward quarter-final win over Zweli Dlamini from Swaziland.

Talented Scouser Peter McGrail looks likely to emerge from the other side of the draw, provided he gets past Hussamuddin Mohammed on Friday, but for now Walker is focused solely on the next challenge.

“I watched a wee bit of the Canadian, he looks slick enough.

“I haven’t really sat down and watched too much of him yet, I’ll do that in the next couple of days. He hasn’t been in with anyone decent yet, so I think I’ll be too good for this fella as well.

“I’ll sit down with John [Conlan] and have a look at him, work out the game-plan. It can be hard to get an idea off tape sometimes, but it’s better than not watching it.”

And while siblings Aidan and Michaela Walsh took the tally of Team NI medalists to four, booking their places in Friday’s semi-finals, the two men at the bigger weights bowed out after brave performances.

Emerald heavyweight Damien Sullivan took the fight to Jason Whately, who competed at the last Olympic Games, but the 6”4 Aussie landed the more eye-catching punches, forcing a standing count in the second round.

Sullivan kept coming though and produced a rousing finish. However, it wasn’t enough as he slipped to a 4-1 split decision defeat and exited the competition.

And it was the same story for Holy Trinity super-heavy Stephen McMonagle in the final fight of the night at Oxenford Studios as he came up short against New Zealand’s Patrick Mailata.

The big Kiwi, fresh from training camp with world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua, struggled to avoid McMonagle’s superb jab but landed the heavier shots against the Letterkenny man on his way to a 5-0 shut-out.

Aidan and Michaela Walsh both won yesterday, and will aim to change the colour of their already secured bronze on Friday. Picture by Hugh Russell

WALSH SIBLINGS REMAIN ON COURSE FOR 'GOLD MEDALS ONLY' DOWN UNDER

‘GOLD medals only’ – that has been the mantra and, for now, the Walsh siblings remain on course to live up to their pre-Commonwealth Games predictions after booking semi-final spots yesterday.

2014 silver medallist Michaela was first up in the afternoon session, and she proved far too strong for Keamogetse Kenosi from Botswana, eventually forcing a third round stoppage.

The 24-year-old has had to wait patiently for her opportunity to step between the ropes at a second consecutive Games, and admitted she felt “a wee bit sluggish” before instantly dismissing the already-secured minimum bronze.

“It’s been a long wait,” said the European Union gold medallist, “but I think seeing the rest of the team perform has sort of driven me on now.

“I’m only here for gold. That there means nothing to me, I’m here for one thing and one thing only.”

Next up in Friday’s 57kg semi-final is New Zealander Alexis Pritchard, and Walsh is expecting more of a test this time around.

She added: “Every fight’s tough, I had a spar with her in training camp, we know each other.

“I hope she performs to the best of her ability and I perform to the best of mine, and there is only one outcome - gold medals only.”

Brother Aidan was in imperious form too as he swept into the last four of the welterweight competition, using his superior footwork and hand-speed to see off another Kiwi, Leroy Hindley.

The 21-year-old was always in control and coasted to a unanimous win that sets up a semi-final showdown with tough Fijian Winston Hill, who got the better of Scotland’s Stephen Newns in a tempestuous contest.

“That’s a medal guaranteed but it doesn’t make any difference to me - I’m only here for the one colour and it’s the gold,” said Walsh.

“Gold medals only, that’s our motto and it’s working. I was in control, in the last round I took my foot off the pedal a wee bit but I knew I was in front so I was controlling it and just got the job done.

“Michaela did the business, so when she came back to the village today she was like ‘right, now you have to win’. I just dug deep and got the win.”

Steven Donnelly won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow four years ago, and can at least emulate that achievement by beating tough Samoan Henry Tyrell today. Picture by PA

COMMONWEALTHS VETERAN DONNELLY OUT TO ADD ANOTHER MEDAL TO COLLECTION

FIVE more medals could be secured in the Gold Coast today – with Commonwealths veteran Steven Donnelly ready to lead the charge.

The Ballymena man, competing at his third Games, won bronze in Glasgow four years ago and can ensure he returns home with at least the same against if he gets the better of Henry Tyrell this morning.

Donnelly has looked comfortable since moving up from welter to middleweight last year even if, more often than not, he is giving away a height and reach advantage.

However, the 29-year-old has used his experience, his superb footwork and fast hands to secure his passage to this stage, and must be in with a big shout of progressing against the 26-year-old Samoan.

Fellow Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine barely broke sweat en route to victory over Jabil Breedy on Monday, and is expected to have too much class for Rajab Mahommed.

The 20-year-old from Botswana received a bye into the last 16, and there is nothing on his record to suggest ‘Wee Rooster’ has anything to worry about.

Victory could set up a possible Friday semi-final with Scotland’s 2014 bronze medallist Reece McFadden, who stunned gold medal favourite Andrew Selby in Glasgow.

Also on the medal trail is James McGivern. The talented lightweight impressed with a second round stoppage win over on Monday, and feels the best is yet to come when he steps between the ropes against Jean John Colin of Mauritius.

Perhaps the fight of the day, however, comes at 60kg in the women’s draw when Alanna Nihell goes toe-to-toe with England’s Paige Murney.

Murney got the edge in their one previous encounter, a 2016 English championship semi-final, and has already had the opportunity to shake off a bit of ring rust in her opening win over Laizani Soma of Papua New Guinea.

Nihell, a bronze medallist four years ago, will need to find her rhythm early to progress to the medal stages.

At 51kg, Carly ‘Wrecking Ball’ McNaul also debuts against Nigeria’s Ayisat Oriyomi, all will hope her all-action style is enough to see the Ormeau Road fighter into the last four on Friday.

First up, at 3.15am this morning, is Kristina O’Hara who goes in search of the Team NI boxers’ first silver medal against Tasmyn Benny.

The St John Bosco switch-hitter impressed in her victory over Welsh pocket rocket Lynsey Holdaway on Sunday, O’Hara using her reach to control most of the exchanges.

However, with Benny around the same height as the tall light-fly, different tactics are likely to be required.

TODAY’S SCHEDULE

48kg semi-final: Kristina O’Hara v Tasmyn Benny (New Zealand) (3.15am approx)

60kg quarter-final: Alanna Nihell v Paige Murney (England) (4.15am approx)

52kg quarter-final: Brendan Irvine v Rajab Mahommed (Botswana) (5.15am approx)

75kg quarter-final: Steven Donnelly v Henry Tyrell (Samoa) (5.45am approx)

51kg quarter-final: Carly McNaul v Ayisat Oriyomi (Nigeria) (9.45am approx)

60kg quarter-final: James McGivern v Jean John Colin (Mauritius) (11am approx)

* Tomorrow is a rest day for boxers at the Commonwealth Games

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