Seconds Out: All eyes on Kurt Walker and Aidan Walsh and Michael Nevin bow out of World Championships
IRISH hopes at the World Elite Championships rest solely on the shoulders of Kurt Walker after Aidan Walsh and Michael Nevin both bowed out in Yekaterinburg yesterday.
Walker shook off a bit of ring rust on his way to a split decision victory over rough, tough Colombian David Avila on Sunday to book a last 16 showdown against Eric Basran today.
The pair have met before, at the semi-final stage of last year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia, with Walker coming through on a split decision against the loose-limbed Canadian.
Although he would eventually lose out to England’s Peter McGrail in the decider, Walker has since improved beyond recognition, landing European Union and European Games gold medals to secure his number six seeding in Russia.
He will fancy his chances of advancing into the last eight, and victory would see the Lisburn man back in the ring tomorrow against the winner of the clash between Mongolian third seed Tsendbaatar Erdenebat and Hungary’s Roland Galos tomorrow.
And Walsh can count himself unfortunate not to still be in the competition too after the north Belfast man delivered a superb performance in his split decision defeat to number two seed and reigning European champion Pat McCormack.
It is only 15 months since they last met in the welterweight final at the Commonwealth Games in Australia, with coach John Conlan threatening to pull Walsh out before the final round unless he started putting pressure on McCormack.
The strong Sunderland man swept to a convincing unanimous decision win that day but Walsh is not one for wallowing in self-pity.
This is evidenced by the manner in which he has forced his way back into the elite squad reckoning following the disappointment of his semi-final loss at the Irish Elites back in February.
And yesterday he showed that what appeared a considerable gap had been narrowed to virtually nothing.
Walsh took the centre of the ring from the start, establishing his jab and getting good success behind a high defence. McCormack landed a lovely left hook to the body midway through the first round before being caught with a quick counter one-two from the Belfast man.
McCormack, using all his experience, came on strong towards the end of the round in a bid to catch the eye of the judges and, having been ordered to use his boxing skills to greater effect, got his jab going nicely at the start of the second.
He landed another solid body shot, but Walsh battled back and with the Irish corner urging him to keep the pressure on McCormack, the Monkstown man landed a crisp counter left hook to the side of the head.
Another big body shot from McCormack near the end of the second saw him finish well again, but the English corner, trying to fire their man up for the final round, told him he needed a big third.
Walsh was just that bit quicker in the last round though, his fast hands getting shots away a millisecond before McCormack could load up and counter, and it was the Sunderland man who looked tired as the final bell neared, looking up at the ringside screen as the seconds ticked down.
For my money Walsh should have just nicked it on the strength of the second and third rounds, but there was very little between the pair – as evidenced by the judges’ scorecards, three of which had McCormack winning 29-28.
The Hungarian judge had Walsh ahead 29-28, while his Australian counterpart had the Irishman winning all three rounds, 30-27.
Middleweight Nevin, meanwhile, battled bravely against home favourite and number eight seed Gleb Bakshi before also exiting via a split decision.
The Portlaoise stylist started strongly, using his height advantage well and landing some crunching jabs as well as a neat one-two before bouncing back out of range.
However, Bakshi began to take over around the midway point, forcing Nevin back and catching the Irishman with some big shots.
Nevin was competitive again in the second and third, and looked to have the edge at one point as his Russian opponent tired. But it was always Bakshi landing the more eye-catching shots, and three of judges favoured his work – one giving him all three rounds – with the Sri Lankan and Ugandan judges giving the nod to Nevin.
Unfortunately for him though, it is Bakshi who goes on to same slick Cuban number one seed Arlen Lopez in tomorrow’s quarter-finals.
A strong County Antrim team is bound for Barcelona this weekend (September 19-22)
Reigning Ulster light-flyweight champion Jack O’Neill (Corpus Christi), who has just returned from America where he was part of the Irish Bridges Beyond Boxing team, gets the nod at 52kg.
JP Hale (Star) – who was also in Detroit and Cincinnati recently - and Colm Murphy (St George’s) are both selected at 57kg, which seems fitting considering the two served up two epic encounters at the start of the year.
Hale edged home in the Ulster Elite final before Murphy gained revenge a week later in the U22 decider.
Pegasus lightweight Dylan Duffy came up short against James McGivern at the Ulster Hall back in January but has made considerable strides in recent years and will be in the medal hunt in Barcelona.
Stylish St Paul’s light-welter Gerard Matthews and big-hitting middleweight Gerard French, now fighting out of the Emerald club, complete the six-strong team.
Harry Cunningham is team manager, with Tony Leonard and Paddy Fitzsimons travelling as coaches. Malachy Scott is County Antrim’s R&J.
THE County Antrim Novice 3 Championships will take place at the Loughside Recreational Centre on Belfast’s Shore Road next week.
Weigh-in takes place on Sunday, with boxing running from Monday, September 23-Thursday, September 26, starting at 7pm each night.
The competition is open to boxers in the following years: 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008.
THE Belfast Halloween Open is now open for entries.
Boxing takes place from Saturday, October 26-Monday, October 28 at Girdwood Community Hub. Download the entry form from the County Antrim board website and, complete and return to firstname.lastname@example.org by Sunday, October 20.
THE semi-finals and finals of the Irish men’s and women’s novice championships take place in the National Stadium Dublin this weekend.
Friday, September 20
Semi-finals (7pm start)
64kg: A Reddy (Drimnagh) v T Burns (Canal)
64kg: J Toko (Mulhuddart) v D O’Connor (NUIG)
70kg: M Enright (Setanta) v S Tyrell (Ballaghaderreen)
75kg: E Brody (Angels) v D O’Sullivan (Lucan)
75kg: J Fitzpatrick (St David’s) v N Flynn (CIE)
81kg: A Rutkowski (Corpus Christi) V R Remickas (DCU)
81kg: L Redmond (Ballybrack) v A Molloy (Gorey)
85kg: L Lynch (Muskerry) v A Ormond (Donore)
85kg: B Gillard (Dunboyne) v J Carney (Drimnagh)
91kg: D Gjini (Darndale) v D Singerzeon (Bay City)
91kg: J Sherlock (Drumsna) v M Rudolf (Crumlin)
91+kg: S Ilesanmi (St Mary’s) v A Eze (Crumlin)
91+kg: K McEneaney (Dealgan) v I Akinnroye (DCU)
Saturday, September 21
Confirmed finals (2pm start)
48kg: S Donnelly (Legends U) W/O
50kg: S Byrne (Olympic Mullingar) W/O
52kg: B O’Donovan (Olympic C) v K Radomsa (St Paul’s W)
57kg: D Snow (Togher) W/O
57kg: K Cummins (Mount Tallant) v L Crawford (St Matthew’s)
60kg: L Cassidy (Angels) W/O
60kg: A Clemenger (Smithfield) v A Bayo (Westside)
63kg: M Woods (Loughshore) v C Waters (Navan)
66kg: R Buchanan (Castlebar) W/O
67kg: S Long (Muskerry) v A Coleman (Sparticus)
71kg: M Sullivan (Angels) v C Dines (Dealgan)
80+kg: L Lazhuskaike (Olympic Mullingar) W/O