Boxing

Damien Sullivan happy to be mixing it with the big boys at Jordanstown training camp

Damien Sullivan (left) with fellow Ulster fighter Gerard French (right) and Italian amateur boxing legend Clemente Russo at the international training camp in Jordanstown
Neil Loughran

SOME of the top boxing talent in Europe will converge on Jordanstown this week – and Damien Sullivan is aiming to drink it in as he mixes it with some of the best.

The Ulster High Performance team welcomed fighters from Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany as the international training camp got under way on Sunday, and runs until this Sunday.

A Romanian team is due to arrive today, while the full Irish team is also in town as they step up their preparations towards the European Union Championships in Valladolid, Spain next month (November 8-19).

Training alongside the likes of Clemente Russo can only be of huge benefit to reigning Ulster champion Sullivan. The Italian is a two-time Olympic silver medallist, on top of winning World gold in 2007 and 2013, and has a wealth of experience in the amateur game.

The heavyweight division is shaping up nicely in Ireland at the moment, heading towards February’s national elite championships as eyes begin to turn to the next Olympics in Tokyo.

Defending champion Kirill Afanasev, Kevin Sheehy and Kenny Okungbowa are all in the mix, while Tony Browne signalled his intent in the Netherlands last week when he defeated Olympian Peter Mullenberg en route to taking gold at the Eindhoven Cup.

“That was a great win for Tony Browne, beating a good lad like that who’s been about a long time,” said Sullivan, who boxes out of the Emerald club in west Belfast.

“You always hear about who’s performing well but there’s no point me fixating on it or getting caught up in who’s winning what. At the end of the day it’s boxing and everybody can win on the day so it doesn’t really matter to me.

“Obviously they’re all getting good run outs and I’m not really getting the run outs at the minute, but I don’t think that’s going to affect me.”

Sullivan got a taste of top level international competition earlier this year when he competed at the Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, only losing out to home favourite and eventual silver medallist Jason Whately.

That was a huge experience for the 24-year-old, who will be part of an Ulster select that heads out to Germany next month for a two week training camp.

Despite being asked about the Irish scene, however, Sullivan’s immediate priority is defending his Ulster title in January.

He continued: “I’ll have a couple of fights out in Germany in November as well as a training camp so it’ll be flat out, and then the Ulsters are after Christmas.

“To be honest, I’m not even thinking about the Irish yet. I need to go in and do the damage in Ulster first and then hopefully go on into the Irish.

“Winning the Ulster title last year meant a lot, especially to win it at the Ulster Hall. I think that really brought the best out of everybody, just being there.

“It’s like a coliseum, that’s the place everybody wants to box and hopefully that’ll be the case again next year.

“But, looking at the bigger picture, the division at the minute is unreal. I haven’t seen the heavyweight division in Ireland looking like this in a long time – there’s normally one or two guys who are the boys you’re looking out for, but you’re talking five or six people now. It’s lethal.”

The County Antrim team that travelled to Limassol recently for the Cyprus Box Cup

COUNTY ANTRIM SELECT SHINE AT CYPRUS BOX CUP

A COUNTY Antrim select competed in the Cyprus Box Cup in Limassol last week, returning from a successful trip with four gold medals and two silvers.

The team consisted of a mixture of junior, youth and senior boxers, alongside coaches Harry Cunningham and Charlie O'Halloran as well as referee and judge Chris McCrory.

All boxers competed well throughout, with standout performances from Ben Ferran (Clonard), Drew Gerrity (Saints) and Euan Smith (St Monica’s). There was also wins for Edgar Vuskans (Glengormley) and Padraig Downey (St John Bosco).

Brodie Reilly (Saints) and Lee McKee (Star) were unfortunate to lose tight contests.

There were also teams competing from Russia, Israel, Crete and Greece, with good friendships and contacts established with the Antrim team.

Further home international events are planned for the forthcoming season, along with the popular Belfast Box cup later this month.

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