Boxing

Silver lining for Star's John Paul Hale at Brandenburg Cup

John Paul Hale celebrates at Dublin airport on Sunday after returning home with a silver medal from the Brandenburg Cup in Germany
Neil Loughran

FOLLOWING a memorable 2018 so far, the sun continues to shine on Star’s John Paul Hale after he returned home from the 16-nation Brandenburg Cup with a silver medal.

Indeed, considering he mined gold at the Black Forest Cup back in May, Germany has been good to Hale in a season that has also delivered Antrim and Ulster titles before his first foray into the international arena.

Following in the footsteps of former amateur stars Ryan Lindberg and Joe Fitzpatrick, Hale defeated two contenders for next month’s World Youth Championships en route to the final.

Germany’s Rasual Hamad and Belarussian number one Ijya Varabyou will both be in Hungary for the Worlds but were no match for the Star bantam as he advanced to Saturday’s final.

Hale fought out a tense, tactical decider with Kazakhstan’s reigning Asian champion Dibars Zhexen, with both enjoying spells of dominance in the first two rounds.

The computer system suffered a technical TKO in the third and final round was scored manually by the judges, with the Kazakh earning a 4-1 split to take gold.

But Hale – whose next engagement will be at an Ulster High Performance training camp from July 23-27 - can hold his head after making his mark on the international stage in such impressive fashion.

“It was some performance he put in and we’re all chuffed for him,” said Star coach Liam Corr.

“We picked him up from the airport last night and he’s over the moon. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised because I know what he’s capable of. He’s unlucky maybe not to be going to the Worlds himself because he lost to Brandon McCarthy in the final of the Irish U18s after a very close fight.

“So I knew he was at that level and it’s just great to see him bring it to such a big stage.”

And the experience of the Black Forest Cup earlier in the summer stood Hale in good stead, according to Corr.

“That was good preparation in terms of being away from family from friends, but I was with him that time so this was probably the first time he’s been away on his own like that.

“He said it was a different experience and the onus was on them, because it was such a big team, to manage their own weight. But he enjoyed the experience and to come home with a silver medal is a great achievement.”

Hale wasn’t the only one to return home with a medal around his neck as Galway’s Adam Hession and Cork’s Owen McDonagh also claimed silver in Frankfurt/Oder.

Light-fly Hession was edged on a split decision by Kazakh Makhmud Sabyrkhan in another closely-contested bout, while flyweight McDonagh asked plenty of questions of England’s current European Youth champion Hope Price.

Irish team manager Gerry O’Mahony said the boys in green gave it everything.

“I thought Adam was unlucky - I thought he did enough to win to tell the truth. It was a great performance,” said Irish team manager Gerry O’Mahony.

“I was just talking to [Hope] Price after final - Owen really put it up to him, he put the European champion under a lot of pressure.

“John Paul is a great young lad, very tough. It was a tough week for our boys against quality opposition. The entire squad were very focused and worked very hard. The coaches had them very well prepared and focused.”

Kane Tucker is still holding out a slim hope of being part of the Irish team that heads out to next month's World Youth Championships in Hungary. Picture by Hugh Russell

TUCKER HOPING WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP DOOR NOT SHUT YET

IT is over two months since his European heartbreak in Italy, but Kane Tucker is holding out a slim hope that the door to the World Youth Championships is not yet fully closed.

Boxers were originally told that they must reach at least the quarter-final stage of the Europeans to qualify for next month’s Worlds, which take place in Hungary from August 20-31.

And as Tucker controversially bowed out in his first fight, he believed that dream – and the dream of subsequently reaching the Youth Olympics in November – was dead.

The Newry teenager, who has since moved up from middleweight to light-heavy, looked to have dominated his fight with Gabrijel Veocic and two judges agreed, giving him all three rounds. However, the other three ruled 29-28 in favour of the Croatian to send Tucker out the exit door.

That defeat left a bitter taste for the Irish team captain, but a restructuring of AIBA’s qualification criteria has left some hope, with the Irish Athletic Boxing Association currently in close contact with boxing’s world governing body.

“There’s still a slight chance it could happen,” said the 18-year-old.

“We’ll just have to see if anything comes of it. Hopefully we’ll find out in the next couple of weeks because there are camps coming up that you would want to be part of.

“That defeat in the Europeans was hard enough to take. I had basically been preparing for them since the last European Championships I was at, so to be put out in the first round was tough.

“But after that I had seven or eight days out there with the rest of the team, and by the time I came home I was alright. I’m still annoyed at the decision but I can’t change it.”

In the meantime, the Holy Family fighter is currently preparing for the Irish U18 Championships, which get under way in Dublin on July 20.

It will be his first competition at the 81 kilo weight limit and, with the possibility of full-time training at the Abbotstown High Performance base, there are exciting times ahead - not least the opportunity to train alongside reigning light-heavyweight king Joe Ward.

“It would be great for me because you’d be training with, and alongside, some of the best,” said Tucker.

“I’m going to take my time building into the weight - it’s a stone jump. I’m still walking around at about 80 kilos so I could definitely tell the difference in power and punching, but I’m hitting harder too.

“The plan is to enter the intermediates later in the year and, if I feel ready, I’ll go into the seniors. I’ll just see how it goes.

“Joe Ward’s top one or two in the world so he’d be brilliant to learn things off, even just training with him, I’m sure I would pick up wee things, but I’d say you’d be picking up wee things off everyone.”

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