Unhappy birthday for Zaur Antia

Irish coach Zaur Antia. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Neil Loughran in Rio

IT was Zaur Antia’s birthday yesterday, but it’s not one the Georgian will look back upon with any fondness after Ireland’s last remaining hope, Michael Conlan, exited the competition in controversial fashion.

Antia was furious when the ringside judges handed a split decision victory to Mira Potkonen against Katie Taylor on Monday. Yesterday, there was more disillusion than anger from the interim Irish head coach.

He could only watch as Vladimir Nikitin was awarded a unanimous decision win over Conlan, despite the Belfast fighter appearing to be on top for much of the fight.

“What can you do?” said Antia with a shrug of his shoulders.

“Yesterday Katie won. Everyone can see, even the opponent, she was not happy and when they raised her hand they were so happy. Then Michael today, that was terrible.

“He won the first round very clean. Then in the second round we changed tactics. If it's not working you have to change but 3-0 - how is this possible?

“And then second round was close, the pressure was close and Michael gets 3-0. Here the boxers lost close fights, but they lost.

“In my opinion these two boxers, Katie and Michael, could go home with gold medals. Definitely. Now I am going home without medals and I'm sorry about that.”

Despite returning home from an Olympic Games with no medals for the first time since Athens in 2004, Antia’s fellow coach Eddie Bolger said he was “so proud” of the team.

And he hoped Conlan could take some solace from an impressive display against Nikitin.

Bolger said: “It might be easier for Michael to get over this because he performed and he won the fight. It might soften it down the line that he is quality, that he is an operator.

“I don't really know what else to say. "But it's happening too often and we need people like yourselves [the media] to highlight it.

“I'm just so proud of the team.”

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