Big names set for Ulster Elite semi-final showdowns at Dockers Club
Amateur boxing: Ulster Elite Open Championships
EIGHT months after bringing home a bronze medal from the Commonwealth Games in Australia, James McGivern is back between the ropes tonight aiming to take the first step towards a second Ulster Elite title in-a-row.
The St George’s stylist took home the coveted ‘Best Boxer’ belt after starring at the Ulster Hall in November 2017, producing a punch-perfect performance to defeat experienced Keady man Sean Duffy in the lightweight final.
That victory secured McGivern’s spot on the Northern Ireland team bound for the Gold Coast last April, where he added to his burgeoning reputation with some eye-catching displays en route to claiming bronze.
However, a shake-up in the weight divisions for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo has seen the 60kg class eradicated, with 56kg instead becoming 57kg while 64kg is now 63kg.
As a result, McGivern – who turns 21 this month - found himself caught somewhere in the middle, and has spent the latter half of 2018 building into the new weight as he bids to fulfil his Olympic dream.
Tonight’s showdown at the Dockers Club in Belfast offers a potential pathway back to the Ulster Hall for finals night on January 19 – but first he will have to get past another serious prospect in Holy Family’s Ryan Lavery.
Like McGivern, the talented 20-year-old from Warrenpoint is also a more natural 60 kilo fighter, and shot to prominence at the Ulster Senior Open and Novice Championships back in September.
On his way to claiming the title, and the ‘Best Boxer’ award, he edged a hard-fought encounter the highly-rated Dominic Bradley, a six-time Irish champion and captain of the 2017 Northern Ireland team that travelled to the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.
Bradley also makes the step up to elite level but remains at 60kg where he will face Holy Trinity’s Barry McReynolds on finals night.
On the other side of the 63kg draw, Clonard’s Ben Ferran takes on Dylan Duffy from the Pegasus club in Downpatrick.
Duffy lost out in a cagey encounter with good friend McGivern at the Ulster Elite semi-final stage last time, and the pair could be on a collision course again.
However, Ferran obviously has other ideas, and Clonard coach Paddy Graham explained that the talented teenager has already come through plenty just to reach this stage.
“Ben has autism, and when he came to us four or five years ago he wouldn’t really speak to anyone; he was quite withdrawn.
“But he has shown what can be done through boxing. It’s really taken him out of his shell, and he’s a strong kid. My brother Peter has him and Tiarnan Duffy, who will fight Eugene McKeever in the 69kg final, in super shape.
“They’re tough first fights for the two lads without headgear, but they’re ready for the step up.”
Brett McGinty is another big name on tonight’s bill, and the Oakleaf middleweight – who lost out to Aidan Walsh in last year’s welterweight decider – is also keen to make it back to the Ulster Hall.
Standing in his way is Eraide Muiha from the host club, with the winner progressing to fight Camlough’s Fearghus Quinn in the 75kg final. Quinn was beaten to a place on the Commonwealth Games team by the experienced Steven Donnelly, and the 2016 Ulster Elite champion will be determined to get his title back.
Opening the show at 48kg will be Donna Barr (Illies GG) and Emma Feeney (Virginia), who fight for the right to face Canal’s Chloe Fleck.
There are no women’s flyweight semi-finals tonight, with Commonwealth Games silver medallist Carly McNaul slated for a 52kg decider against Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers on January 19.
In the men’s light-fly championship, Holy Family’s Diarmuid Toland takes on Corpus Christi’s Jack O’Neill in their light-flyweight semi-final. Ederney’s Rory Baird awaits the winner.
At 57kg, St George’s have another man in action when Colm Murphy – a 2017 Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist – comes up against Monkstown’s Connor Kerr, with Star’s JP Hale up against Eamon McNally (St Michael’s).
On finals night, St John Bosco, Belfast’s Paul McCullagh will pit his wits against Noel Donnelly (Holy Family, Drogheda) at 81kg.
In the heavyweight division tonight, Holy Family’s Michael Erpelding awaits the winner of tonight’s clash between Cathal Morrow (Ballykelly) and Karol Dlugosz (Scorpion), with Holy Trinity’s Stephen McMonagle up against Denis Borskins (St John Bosco, Newry) in the super-heavy semi-final.
Erne’s Joe Joyce, who edged a controversial decision over McMonagle in the last four of the 2017 championships, is down to take on the winner in the final.
Ulster Open Elite semi-finals (first bout, 8.30pm)
48kg: D Barr (Illies) v E Feeney (Virginia)
49kg: D Toland (Holy Family) v J O'Neill (Corpus Christi)
57kg: C Murphy (St George’s) v C Kerr (Monkstown)
57kg: JP Hale (Star) v E McNally (St Michael’s)
63kg: J McGivern (St George's) v R Lavery (Holy Family)
63kg: D Duffy (Pegasus) v B Ferran (Clonard)
75kg: B McGinty (Oakleaf) v E Muiha (Dockers)
91kg: C Morrow (Ballykelly) v K Dlugosz (Scorpion)
91+kg: D Borskins (SJB, Newry) v S McMonagle (Holy Trinity)