Seconds Out: Gabriel Dossen Hungary for comeback success after injury lay-off
IT’S almost a year since Gabriel Dossen lit up the National Stadium to claim the Irish middleweight title – and today he makes his return to the ring, this summer’s Olympic Games still in his sights.
Despite fighting with a heavily bandaged leg, the Galway stylist defeated defending champion Michael Nevin, Derry’s tough Brett McGinty and Emmett Brennan – Ireland’s current light-heavyweight kingpin – to land the 81kg title and announce his arrival on the elite scene.
Unfortunately for Dossen, that leg injury turned out to be tear in his meniscus, forcing him to go under the surgeon’s knife last July in a bid to be back in time for a tilt at the upcoming Olympic qualifiers.
Seven months on, he steps between the ropes in Hungary today, taking on Norway’s Mindougas Gedminas in the last 16 of the Bosckai Memorial tournament.
“They repaired my meniscus,” said the 20-year-old.
“At the start we didn’t know it was torn so I just tried to box through it, but the McGinty fight was very hard -at one point I went down on one knee.
“I managed to box through the final then the week after and go to the European U22s, I went in okay, but I kept tearing it again and it kept getting worse.
“Eventually in July I got surgery, and I’m literally only getting back into it now. I was in a brace and then in crutches for 10 weeks, until mid-October, so there was no way I could’ve got back in time for the elites [held in November]. I was only back running around Christmas.
“Last week was my first week back sparring, so this will be my first competition since I’ve come back.”
There is always a wariness about pushing too hard when returning from injury, but Dossen is confident his knee is ready to stand up to stress.
“The team up here in Abbotstown, Lorcan McKee and David Cooke, they’ve done a good job, we’ve strengthened the muscle up around and there’s no pains at all – there’s no problem any more with my knees. Nothing.
“My movement feels great, I’ve a full range of flexibility back. The rehab was done perfectly, so I’m ready to go.”
The middleweight spot on the Irish team heading to next month’s Olympic qualifiers in London could still be up for grabs after Nevin lost to Brazilian Herbert Souza in his first fight at the Strandja tournament in Bulgaria recently.
Giving himself the best chance of reaching Tokyo is the reason Dossen decided to go for surgery so swiftly last summer, but insists his sole focus for now is coming through this week.
“Michael’s performance doesn’t really have an influence on how I’m going to box. I’ll have a plan for each fight, and obviously my intention is to go out and win gold, regardless of Michael winning or not winning.
“I’m only back from injury so God knows what could happen; it’s only my first competition back. We all want the best for each other – there are no enemies. Maybe a few people have quarrels at their weight but, even say me and Michael, we don’t have a problem with each other.
“We’ve gone away together, both won World bronze medals, we’ve boxed at the same championships. It’s just unfortunate we’re both at the same weight, but I can only focus on myself and getting back at it.
“There’s been a few hurdles along the way, a couple of setbacks, but that’s always going to happen. There were some weeks where I maybe over-trained and my knee would start swelling up again.
“I don’t know how my knee will be – it could be perfect timing, it could be too early, I don’t know. This competition will give me a very good picture of where I’m at.”
Dossen isn’t the only elite fighter on the comeback trail this week either, with Belfast’s Brendan Irvine making his return yesterday.
The Rio Olympian, fighting in international competition for the first time since the 2018 Commonwealth Games, lost out on a split decision to Botswana’s busy Mohammed Rajab in the last 32 in Debrecen.
McCULLOUGH DEDICATES IRISH VICTORY TO EOIN HAMILL
THERE were emotional scenes at the National Stadium last Friday night as Gleann bantam Marty McCullough dedicated his Irish U18 title success to young Eoin Hamill, who passed away last month.
Thirteen-year-old Eoin, a highly-regarded talent coming through the ranks at the west Belfast club, died after being knocked off his bike by a car on January 3.
McCullough wasn’t going to enter the championships after losing his cousin, who was “more like a brother” according to Gleann coach Dee Walsh, but ended up going all the way, defeating Jack Connors from Naas in the final.
“It shows the character this man has by using it as fuel to win, along with an amazing family and club who has supported him,” said Walsh.
McCullough now looks set to be selected for the Irish team that competes at the European Youth Championships in April, with fellow Ulster winners Dylan Eagleson, John McConnell and Leah Gallen joining the west Belfast teenager.
St Paul’s ace Eagleson rounded off an impressive championships with a stylish victory over Letterkenny’s Paddy McShane to take the 49kg crown, with coach Ralph McKay saying: “Dylan boxed to the gameplan.
“McShane is a good boxer but all round Dylan controlled the three rounds, waiting to catch him with his back hand.”
Raphoe welterweight Gallen edged out Crumlin’s Shelby Myers on a 3-2 split, while McConnell added to his burgeoning reputation with another shut-out win in the lightweight decider.
Boxing for the fifth time in four weeks, McConnell was too strong for Kilcullen’s Aodhan Byrne as he swept to a 5-0 victory.
“He’s had a really good run,” said Holy Trinity coach Michael Hawkins.
“He came up against five different types of opponent – the southpaw, the orthodox, the boxer, the fighter - so that will stand well to him in terms of his preparations for the Europeans.
“John is a confident kid, but he has a right to be confident because of the preparation he puts in. He lives the game, he does everything right, and he’s getting what he deserves.
“The club is bouncing at the minute and with the likes of Barry McReynolds - our Ulster elite champion - and now John, the kids have boxers there to look up to and to learn from. Success breeds success.”