Olympic hopeful James McGivern 'will just get on with it' amid weight change shake-up, says coach

James McGivern looks set for a move up for 63 kilos if he is to chase his dream of boxing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Picture by Mark Marlow
Neil Loughran

THERE has been nothing officially confirmed by world body AIBA yet, but all the noises around amateur boxing suggest there is to be a major shake-up in the weights for Tokyo 2020 – with Belfast’s James McGivern and other lightweight hopefuls potentially facing the biggest upheaval.

The St George’s stylist won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal earlier this year and was seen as a strong contender to book an Olympic spot at 60kg.

Lightweight is his natural weight class having moved up from 56 as he transitioned into senior boxing following a stellar career coming through the age grades.

However, to make way for two new weight classes in women’s boxing, it now looks as though 49kg and 60kg will be removed from the male competition.

Last year it emerged that featherweight (57kg) and welterweight (69kg) would be added to women’s boxing for the 2020 Games, joining flyweight (51kg), lightweight (60kg) and middleweight (75kg).

And the knock-on effect means the male boxing weight classes are likely to be 52kg, 57kg, 63kg, 69kg, 75kg, 81kg, 91kg and +91kg.

Reports online over the weekend stated that amateur boxing giants Kazakhstan were now operating with eight classes for the men in anticipation of the move, which is likely to be seen at the European Games and World Championships next year.

And it is understood that the Irish Athletic Boxing Association has already informed fighters that the new weight classes will be in operation for February’s Irish Elite Championships, which are seen as the first step towards the Olympics.

McGivern’s coach Danny Boyd wasn’t overly impressed with the huge gap between 57kg and 63kg, but insists his man will be ready to compete at the new weight class when the time arrives.

“I don’t know what the thought process is,” he said.

“You’ve got the wee lads there at 60 kilos, now they have to build themselves up to 63. It’s madness.

“But we’ve spoken about it with James. He’ll never do 57, he’s too big, so he’ll just have to build himself into 63. He can do it, he’s strong enough at 63.

“You know James, he doesn’t lack for confidence. He believes he can beat the whole world. He’d probably tell you he’d beat everybody at middleweight and everybody at heavyweight too, that’s just the way he is.

“We’ll have to get a talk with Stuart McKeating, his strength and conditioning coach, and see how we go about it. James probably only walks around about 61 or 62, he doesn’t kill himself to get down to 60.

“But then you’ll have the heavier boys killing themselves to get down as well, so it’s hard to know.

“We’ll figure something out. He was away in Spain with the Ulster High Performance team there for a week so we’ll get it sorted out soon.

“James will just get on with it, no matter what.”

The other Ulster boxer likely to be affected by the shake-up is European bronze medallist Kurt Walker, with bantamweight moving up one kilo to the old featherweight limit of 57k while light-welterweight drops by a kilo to 63kg.

“Happy days,” said the Canal fighter, “it could suit me better to try and build more muscle.”

The changes also mean there will be more Olympic places per weight, with 206 spots divided across eight classes rather than 250 across 10.

The end of the light-fly division marks a sad end to a weight class that has been good to Ireland in recent times, with Holy Family’s Paddy Barnes returning from Beijing 2008 and London 2012 with 49kg bronze medals.

A painting of the late Harry Enright, by artist Danny Devenny, was presented to Enright's family on Saturday night


THE boxing fraternity turned out in force at St Matthew’s social club in the Short Strand on Saturday evening to pay tribute to the late Harry Enright.

The highlight of the event saw the presentation of a painting by Danny Devenny to the Enright family.

Paddy Fitzsimons and Sean McCafferty - both members of the Ireland team, led by Enright, that competed at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo – were on hand to make the presentation.

Speaking at the event, Harry’s son Martin said: "It wasn’t what dad knew about boxing that made him a good coach, it was what he knew about people.

“Dad understood fear and how to overcome it. He took many kids through that journey and the experience helped them through life.”

McCafferty, who at 19 was the youngest member of the Irish squad that travelled to Tokyo 54 years ago, has fond memories of Enright from his days attending St Patrick's College, Bearnageeha in north Belfast

“It was a good night,” he said.

“I knew Harry at school, and it was good to talk to his wife and children again on Saturday night. They presented the picture to the family, and it was all very well done.

“It was good to see so many members of the boxing community there to pay their respects.

“You couldn’t say a bad word about Harry – Harry was always witty and smart. He was just one of those fellas and, even at the training, no matter what questions you asked, he knew the answer.

“He gave a lot of his life to boxing.”

In 1959, Enright – who died in 2015 - helped re-establish amateur boxing in the Short Strand when he became head coach at St Matthew's.

Former colleague Joe Mitchell remembered Harry as a man who had inspired countless youngsters within the Short Strand and paid tribute to him for his many years of selfless dedication to boxing in the area.

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