No luck for Michaela Walsh as Russian Abramova advances to European final

Russia's Daria Abramova has her hand raised at the end of yesterday's semi-final against Michaela Walsh

THE margins of success and failure can be incredibly small in boxing, as Michaela Walsh found to her cost yesterday when she bowed out of the European Elite Championships at the semi-finals stages.

Walsh went into her last four showdown with Russia’s Daria Abramova in confident mood having already picked up three impressive wins in Sofia – most notably against reigning world champion Alessia Mesiano from Italy.

However, after a close, cagey fight she lost out to Abramova – who has recently moved down from 60kg to 57kg whereas Walsh has moved up to featherweight from 54kg – on a split decision.

The Monkstown fighter - a two-time Commonwealth Games silver medallist - held a clear height advantage over her 33-year-old opponent, who won a bronze medal at the 2012 World Championships boxing at light-welter.

Walsh started well, catching Abramova with two jabs to the stomach early in the first round before landing a nice straight right as she closed the distance.

The powerfully-built Russian was waiting for Walsh to attack before countering, but the Belfast woman gave her little opportunity as she timed her raids well, finishing the round by landing a nice right cross on the way out of an inside exchange.

Abramova, perhaps sensing she had lost the opener, was more aggressive in the second round, stalking Walsh around the ring.

When she did close the distance and launch attacks, the exchanges were pretty even, although the Russian did finish the round well, landing a nice cross right in the centre of the ring before catching Walsh with a short left to the head near the ropes seconds later.

It all looked to be on the third round, and Walsh appeared to land the cleaner shots in a couple of earlier exchanges. She also had a free shot after Abramova turned her back and dropped her hands, perhaps believing the referee had called a break.

Walsh didn’t have to be asked twice though, landing a left to the chin before the Russian retreated.

As the seconds ticked down both women were visibly tiring, and the final 20 seconds saw the pair standing in the centre of the ring trading before the bell. Walsh looked to have done enough after appearing to do the better work in the third, but the judges gave the nod to Abramova.

However, she can still look back on a fine tournament, and a fine 12 months that has also seen her land European Union gold as well as silver in Australia back in April.

Next up for the 25-year-old will be the World Elite Championships, which take place in New Delhi, India from November 15-24.

Meanwhile, Kellie Harrington had to settle for bronze after dropping a split decision to Finland’s Mira Potkonen.

The Dublin lightweight was beaten 4-1 in the semi-final by Potkonen, who ended Katie Taylor’s Olympic dream at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

Harrington, switching from southpaw to orthodox, found the target with crisp jabs in all three rounds though – just as she did against Taylor two summers ago - Potkonen responded with solid combinations.

The St Mary’s fighter impressed with an excellent left-right in the final round, but the experienced Potkonen hit back before the close of the round to win in a repeat of the 2017 European Union final.

Like fellow bronze-medallist Walsh, Harrington has secured her qualification for the 2019 European Games in Belarus.

Jack McGivern with St George's coach Danny Boyd (left) and dad/coach Jim McGivern after his Irish title win in March


JAMES McGivern may be regarded as one of Ireland’s most exciting talents, but younger brother Jack is coming hot on his heels according to their club coach.

Danny Boyd has been working with both since they first stepped through the doors of the St George’s club, and believes Jack (17) has the potential to reach the same level as his elder sibling.

Twenty-year-old James already has a Commonwealth Games bronze medal, Commonwealth Youth gold and an Ulster Elite title to his name, and is eyeing a spot at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Jack, meanwhile, has taken a huge growth spurt in the past year, joining his brother at the 60kg weight limit where he landed a Junior 2 Irish title in Dublin at the end of March.

He will be part of a five-strong team from the Markets club – along with Colm Murphy, Conall Ross, Jordan O’Donnell and Seanna McComb - that heads to the Monkstown Box Cup from June 28-July 1.

And Boyd hopes he can now kick on and follow James’s trail of success.

“Every time I look at Jack he’s getting bigger. He’s huge now,” said Boyd.

“He’s always had the talent but it took him a bit of time to grow up strength-wise. He was boxing wee lads sometimes and they just looked far stronger than him.

“Jack just hasn’t really had the rub of the green in the last few years – that was his first Irish title from he was boy 1. But you can see he’s growing into a bit of a monster.

“It did him the world of good, and he really needed to win that title just for his own confidence.

“I’d say he’ll eventually go up to 64 but for now he’s 60 and he’ll be hard to beat at that. The difference even from six months ago is frightening.”

Jack was with an Ulster select in Germany last month for the Black Forest Cup, and has been doing a few rounds’ sparring with his older brother in preparation for the Monkstown Box Cup.

James has recently returned to the gym after his exploits on the Gold Coast where, in his first major international competition as a senior boxer, he returned with a bronze medal, turning in some impressive performances.

The pair have joked about meeting at lightweight some time in the future, though Boyd insists it won’t happen on his watch.

“Their ma would kill me,” he laughed.

“They’re different personalities and, because the both of them are 60 kilo now, they sleg each other ‘when are we fighting?’ But it’ll never happen.

“They’re both southpaws but Jack would be a wee bit more aggressive, he likes a bit of a tear-up and, the way the scoring’s going these days, you’re going to have to do that.

“They’re both good kids with serious potential. The club’s going well as a whole, everybody’s bringing each other on.”

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