Boxing

Michaela Walsh ready to bounce back with a bang at European Championships

Belfast's Michaela Walsh came out on the wrong side of the judges' scorecards after her Commonwealth Games final against Australia's Skye Nicolson
Neil Loughran

SEVEN weeks on from her Commonwealth Games final disappointment, Michaela Walsh is determined to bounce back with a bang when she steps between the ropes at the European Elite Championships in Bulgaria.

The action got under way in Sofia yesterday and, having won gold at the European Union Championships last August, Walsh will be among the favourites at 57kg.

Commonwealth Games silver medals are not to be sniffed at but Walsh has justifiable cause to feel she could instead have two golds from the Games in Glasgow and the Gold Coast.

A narrow split decision went the way of double Olympic champion Nicola Adams in 2014, while Walsh and most fight fans were at a loss to explain how she came out on the wrong side of the judges’ scorecards against home favourite Skye Nicolson back in April.

That decision was tough to take, but the 24-year-old says she will use it as fuel to the fire for future competitions.

“It was hard,” said Walsh of the Nicolson defeat.

“With Nicola Adams I felt I won but it was a close fight, but after that fight, I was speechless. I don’t know how they could’ve gone against me when someone’s not hitting you, but it’s just one of those things.

“She knew herself, but I just have to get on with it. The last time I let it eat away at me and annoy me but this time, after a few days, I said to myself ‘they stole it away from me, but it wasn’t meant to be’.

“With the Worlds coming up too, this is a big, big year for me. This is all the lead-up to Tokyo and I’m at the Olympic weight now, so it will be good to stamp my authority at the weight on the world stage so people know who I am.”

The Monkstown fighter had been due for a much earlier return to the ring after returning from Australia, with the Europeans initially scheduled for the start of May.

However, with Poland unable to host the competition, the venue and the date – mercifully for Walsh – were switched to Sofia from June 4-13.

“That suited me better because I was just back from Australia so it would’ve been very hard,” she said.

“I’m glad they were moved because I was able to get a full training camp in and prepare for them properly. They brought us to Sheffield for a week’s camp and it was hard because I hadn’t done any training.

“We were sparring every single day, I was sort of thrown in at the deep end but it helped me get my fitness back pretty quickly.”

Having campaigned at 51kg and 54kg before moving up to 57kg, Walsh is continuing to build into her new weight.

But, after four competitive fights in the Gold Coast, and no shortage of sparring rounds under her belt, she is starting to feel stronger.

“It’s hard to get the weight up and keep it on you because I’ve always been used to cutting out, but I feel like I’ve filled out a bit at the weight. I still have a bit to go before Tokyo but I feel strong.

“Even over in Australia, in the training camp and the fights, I was hitting them and I felt like I was hurting them as well.

“It’s a bonus not to have to struggle with the weight, you’re able to enjoy your training more and push on.”

Brendan Irvine, who won a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, says he is open to offers from professional promoters

IRVINE KEEPING OPTIONS OPEN OVER POSSIBLE PRO MOVE

BRENDAN Irvine admits he is keeping his options open after seeing another Irish team-mate turn over to the paid ranks in recent weeks.

Slick counter-puncher Sean McComb, a good friend of Irvine’s and captain of the Northern Ireland team at April’s Commonwealth Games, has joined the growing Mack The Knife (MTK) stable.

He is the latest in a long line of top level amateurs to turn over since Rio 2016, with team-mates Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes, Katie Taylor and David Oliver Joyce making their way as professionals, while Steven Donnelly is expected to join them soon.

Irvine says he would still like to try and make it to Tokyo but, with funding running out at the end of 2018 and no major tournaments until next year, the lure of the pro game has given him food for thought.

“I always keep my options open and if anyone wants to make an offer or wants to talk to me, I’ll sit down and listen. I’ve said that from day one,” said the 22-year-old who, apart from Joe Ward, is now the most experienced boxer on the Irish team.

“When you’re in an amateur sport, the Olympics is the thing to go for, and to win an Olympic medal would be amazing. That’s my main aim at the minute, but you never know. I’ll always keep my options open, see what people have to say.

“I’ll just take it day by day and if I get an offer and it’s good enough, why not? But I’m not just going to jump at the first offer. I want to make sure the timing’s right and that everything about the contract is good.”

Irvine will be at the SSE Arena on June 30 to watch his former team-mates in action on Michael Conlan’s homecoming bill, with McComb in line to make his debut on the undercard.

And ‘Wee Rooster’ admits the 25-year-old is a huge loss to the High Performance unit.

He added: “It’s hard to see Sean going more than anything because he was such a big character in the team. He brought all the craic and the banter.

“For years, even making weight away in foreign countries, it can be crap at times, but Sean was always good craic.

“He was the one to lift spirits and you need somebody like that on the team. It’s hard to see him go but I wish him all the best and I hope to God he can be Ireland’s next world champion.

“He’s a very talented guy, he just hasn’t got the rub of the green as an amateur.”

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