I would welcome WSB chance says Olympic hopeful James McGivern

With the countdown now on to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, James McGivern admits he would be open to representing a team in the World Series of Boxing. Picture by Mark Marlow
With the countdown now on to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, James McGivern admits he would be open to representing a team in the World Series of Boxing. Picture by Mark Marlow

COMMONWEALTH Games bronze medallist James McGivern admits he would love the chance to strut his stuff in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) next year as he bids to reach the 2020 Olympic Games.

Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Steven Donnelly all qualified for the Rio Games through the WSB, and it is an option that could be open to some of Ireland’s top hopefuls heading towards Tokyo.

McGivern has long been touted as one of the outstanding talents in the country and, in his first year as a senior, took the top boxer award at a highly competitive Ulster Elite Championships before his podium finish Down Under.

And with the countdown now on to 2020, the St George’s ace admits he would be happy to pursue any route, as long as he makes it to Rio.

“If it was offered, I would jump at it to get fights and experience at that level because WSB is all the top boys, plus it’s the fastest way to qualify,” said McGivern, whose first-ever senior fight was a baptism of fire against World champion Sofiane Oumiha last year.

“John [Conlan] has told me how difficult it is, the WSB. It’s a very difficult situation to be in, a lot of travelling, going to these wee horrible corners of Kazakhstan to box, plus whatever team drafts you would have to pick you to get enough points to qualify for the Olympics.

“But, no matter what, by hook or by crook, I’m getting there.”

It is a dream that was first born while watching a 21-year-old Barnes land a bronze medal at the 2008 Games.

He was glued to the TV as the Irish team failed to live up to expectations in Brazil two summers ago, but it was Beijing that first fired McGivern’s determination to appear at the greatest show on earth.

“I remember watching Beijing, watching Paddy, thinking ‘that’s going to me some day’.

“It goes that far back, I was only a nipper. I think I was in primary school coming back to watch his fights and I just knew then I wanted to get there too.”

The first step on the long road to Tokyo will be the Irish Elite Championships next February.

Like most of the Commonwealth Games team, McGivern opted to sit out this year’s Irish Elites as he was in camp for the Gold Coast, but in six months time he will be gunning for George Bates’s lightweight crown.

“All the focus now is on the Irish seniors in February. It’s two years until the Olympics and they’ll be here in no time. Does it feel like two years since Rio? That’s the way I think of it.

“I’m sure every man and his dog will be entering this time around. There’ll be a bit of pressure but when I get into the ring I get in there with the same mindset as when I was eight years of age. It’s just another ring to me at the end of the day, just another opponent.”

And he has no plans to start Googling prospective 60 kilo rivals in the meantime.

“They can do the sussing out,” added the 20-year-old personal trainer.

“I do my sussing out within about 30 seconds of the first round and then have a wee plan in my head.”

The Commonwealth Games was only four months ago but already two of McGivern’s team-mates – Sean McComb and Steven Donnelly – have turned over to the pro ranks, with both set to make their debut on Carl Frampton’s August 18 Windsor Park card.

McGivern admits the temptation is always there to punch for pay, but he is happy to resist until he has achieved his Olympic dream.

“You see Sean and Stevie making their debut on the Frampton bill and you do look at it and think ‘that could be me’ and that’s a massive thing. It’s very appealing.

“But I said when I was very young, I started this for one thing. I’m coming up to the peak of the mountain now so there’s no point getting halfway up and jumping off.”

Kristina O'Hara claimed a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia back in April. Picture by PA
Kristina O'Hara claimed a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games in Australia back in April. Picture by PA


KATIE Taylor remains the only Irishwoman to win World Championship gold but Belfast’s Kristina O’Hara is confident she could follow in her footsteps – if she is given the chance.

O’Hara is currently preparing for next month’s Irish Open Elite competition, which will help select a team to travel to November’s World Championships in New Delhi.

The 22-year-old brought home 48kg silver from the Commonwealth Games back in April, and would love to try and claim the light-fly crown in India should she come up trumps in Dublin.

However, less than five weeks out it remains unclear whether the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA) intends to send a full team to the Worlds, or whether it will only be selecting fighters at the Olympic weights – even though it isn’t an Olympic qualifier.

Gerard McCafferty, O’Hara’s coach at St John Bosco, has made enquiries to the IABA in a bid to get clarity on the situation.

“If they came back and said if she wins at 48 kilo she’d be on the team for the Worlds, that’s the route we’d go down.

“But they need to let us know one way or another. If they’re not taking a 48 kilo boxer to the Worlds, it’s a no-brainer - obviously she would move up to 51 kilo then.”

However, McCafferty believes the IABA would be passing up on a possible gold medal opportunity by not selecting O’Hara to enter the 48kg class.

“We have heard that Mary Kom is moving up to 51 to try and qualify for the Olympics so, surely to God, with Kristina being so strong at 48, it would be a fantastic opportunity to go to the World Championships with the possibility of becoming a world champion.

“People saw there was nothing between Kristina and Mary Kom in the Commonwealth final, so she’s clearly at that level.

“This time last year Michaela Walsh wasn’t on the team for the European Unions because it was the Olympic weights they were taking. She was brought in two weeks out and went and won a gold medal.

“It would be a big opportunity but at this stage the most important thing is that we know the plan. It’s not fair to keep us guessing about what weight to enter at.

“All we want is to know one way or the other. I don’t know what the big secret is.”