Boxing

Seconds Out: Michaela Walsh will learn from setbacks says coach

Michaela Walsh boxed well against Bulgaria's Stanimira Petrova in the European Games final but ended up coming home from Minsk with a silver medal. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

MICHAELA Walsh has already proved her ability to bounce back from setbacks on the big stage, and her club coach has backed the 26-year-old to learn from those disappointments ahead of the biggest year of her boxing career.

This time next year the boxing competition at the Olympic Games in Tokyo will be reaching its conclusion, with finals day scheduled for August 9 2020. Walsh is one of many hopefuls – alongside brother Aidan - daring to dream about making it to the greatest show on earth.

In a medal-laden career to date, she has just come up short in two Commonwealth Games deciders as well as the featherweight final of the European Games at the end of June.

That was a bitter pill to swallow after the Belfast girl appeared to have done against experienced Bulgarian Stanimira Petrova, but Monkstown coach Paul Johnston believes Walsh will come back bigger and better again.

“Michaela’s an exceptionally dedicated boxer, as is Aidan, and she’s been quite unlucky with decisions where she probably needed to make it a wee bit more clear in terms of the scoring system,” he said.

“It’s taken her a couple of major tournaments to realise just what the judges are looking for, and tactically how to maximise her style and her engine. That’s something she has been working on; being the more dominant boxer, making clear to the judges who is landing the cleaner punches.

“You’re not so much talking about a change in style, it’s just being smarter, getting out of the blocks a bit earlier. The first round is so important in international boxing.”

There has been official confirmation of the Irish women’s team being sent to the European Championships in Spain later this month.

However, with reigning world lightweight champion Kellie Harrington ruled out through injury, it would be a surprise if the on-form Walsh didn’t travel to Albocendas.

Beyond that, though, the focus will be on the Irish Elite Championships in November, with all eyes looking longingly towards the International Olympic Council continental qualifier, scheduled to take place in London next April.

“She’s had really good preparation in terms of training and sparring with the national team. She’s on the road to Tokyo, without doubt, and we’re very confident she’s going to qualify.

“That is her ultimate dream, to medal in Tokyo, and the key thing for Michaela now is to be in the best shape of her life for Olympic qualification come April next year.”

And, despite losing out at the semi-final stage of the Irish elites, younger brother Aidan remains a key player in the welterweight mix as he bids to reignite his Olympic dream.

The 22-year-old lost a split decision to Paddy Donovan back in February. However, with the Limerick man having since turned pro with Top Rank, Walsh will be breathing down the neck of defending 69kg champion Kieran Molloy.

“He’s in the mix for potentially a place at the World Championships,” said Johnston.

“And obviously there’s a national championships in November and you would envisage the team would be selected from whoever is the national champion and whoever’s in the high performance at that time.

“It’s all to play for. Last year, with the goalposts changing with AIBA falling, there’s an opportunity now for all boxers to come back in and put themselves in the frame for Olympic qualification.”

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Holy Trinity's Kyle Smith (right) with Belarussian opponent Yaroslav Sapeha after yesterday's fight

SMITH SHOWS HIS CLASS TO ADVANCE TO EURO QUARTER-FINAL

BELFAST’S Kyle Smith moved into the last eight of the European Schoolboy/girls Championships yesterday with a stylish opening performance in Georgia.

The Holy Trinity ace had the height advantage over Yaroslav Sapeha, and used that well to control the 43kg fight with his jab, catching the Sapeha time and again with crisp left hooks as the Belarussian attempted to close the distance.

Fighting at his first major international competition, it was a nice way for Smith to open his account and warm into the tournament in Tbilisi, which doesn’t feature any Russian boxers due to ongoing political tensions between the two countries.

However, he will face a stiffer challenge in tomorrow’s quarter-final as the 13-year-old bids to secure a spot among the medals.

Smith will be up against Ukraine’s Yehor Kirylius, who impressed on the way to a straightforward victory over Strahinja Mosorinski, eventually stopping the Serbian in the third.

There were also wins for Irish captain Roy Colgan and Laurence Connors. Colgan scored an inside the distance win over Malta’s Ellul Cayden and Connors got the nod against Fuad Babayev.

Inching his way into the contest, Connors dropped the lively Azeri for a count with a superb left in the first round en route to a unanimous decision.

In quarter-final action is Carleigh Irving, the Illies GG fighter who is hoping to move into medal contention when she faces Turkey’s Pinar Ozkan at 46kg today.

Avona’s Lee McEvoy, meanwhile, faces his second fight of the competition when he comes up against home favourite Demur Kajaia in the flyweight quarter-final.

McEvoy showcased impressive shot selection, footwork and evasive tactics to win 30-27 across the board against the game Antonio Hauer of the Czech Republic on Sunday, and will have taken confidence from that win.

INSET

European Schoolboy/girls Championships quarter-finals (Irish fighters first)

41.5kg: S Tyndall v M Stojanovic (Croatia)

42kg: K O’Keeffe v J Kilkenny (England)

44kg: E Lambe v M Rossetti (Italy)

46kg: C Irving v P Ozkan (Turkey)

48kg: N Jackman v D Jovanovic (Serbia)

52kg: L McEvoy v D Kajaia (Georgia)

54kg: N Keogh v I Devenyi (Hungary)

68kg: T Ward v Y Prudnikau (Belarus)

70kg: B Ryan T v Tatia Bukia (Georgia)

90kg: A Olaniyan v A Hovakimyan (Armenia)

80kg: B Cawley v Y Harutyunyan (Ukraine)

90kg+: D O’Brien v L Pavcec (Croatia)

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