Boxing

Dubliner Emmet Brennan 'gutted' after Olympics exit

Featherweight Kurt Walker defeated Spain's Jose Brotons to set up a Wednesday morning clash with current World champion and number one seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov. Picture by PA
Neil Loughran

THAT he even made it to the Olympic stage was a major achievement in itself, but Dublin’s Emmet Brennan admitted he was “gutted” after bowing out in the last 32 yesterday.

The 30-year-old, who almost quit the sport four years ago before moving up from middleweight to light-heavy, provided one of the most inspiring stories of the Irish qualification process when he battled to a Tokyo 2020 spot at last month’s qualifier.

Brennan could have done with a kinder draw than being paired with 2019 World silver medallist and reigning Asian champion Dilshod Ruzmetov – and, despite a brave performance, ultimately came up short against the tall, powerful Uzbek.

Ruzmetov settled first with a strong opening round and although Brennan battled back in the second, the judges still saw in favour of his opponent, leaving the Dubliner with a mountain to climb in the third and final round.

Again it was Ruzmetov who landed the more telling shots to claim a unanimous decision, bringing Brennan’s journey to an end.

“I’m gutted,” he said.

“It’s an Olympic Games, you come here to win and ultimately, I was beaten in the first fight. He was a good opponent, but a loss is never easy – especially on the biggest occasion in the world.

“You want to go as far as you can, you know you need a best night every fight and I didn’t have my best night, it’s as simple as that.”

Kurt Walker had got the Irish boxers off to a winning start in the early hours of Saturday morning with a split decision last 32 victory over Spaniard Jose Brotons at the Kokugikan Arena.

A slick start saw him claim the first on all cards, only for Brotons to force his way back into in the second. Despite picking up a cut above his right eye, Walker held firm and outworked Brotons in the last round to have his hand raised.

“I’m so happy to be here, and so happy to get the win,” said the Canal Boxing Academy featherweight.

“I’m feeling grateful. I was listening to the coaches and I knew I was going to win. It just went off a bit in the second round but that’s normal in the first fight, it’s good to have that type of thing behind me.”

The serious business starts now for Walker, though, as he faces current World champion and number one seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov in the early hours of Wednesday morning (4.36am approx).

And the Lisburn man is relaxed ahead of that clash with the tough Uzbek.

“I have an advantage – I’ve had a fight, I’ve been here,” he said.

“I’ve had byes before and fought lads and wished I didn’t have the bye, so I’m confident.”

This morning, at around 6.27am, featherweight fourth seed Michaela Walsh will renew her rivalry with Irma Testa, with a quarter-final place up for grabs.

The experienced Italian, who beat Russia’s Liudmila Vorontsova on a 4-1 split in their preliminary round clash on Saturday, defeated Walsh in the final of the European qualifier in Paris last month. However, by that stage both had already achieved their objective heading out to the French capital – securing qualification.

Testa and Walsh also met in a test match during a training camp at Ulster University’s Jordanstown campus in April, with Walsh coming out on top then, so both have call to be confident.

Whoever comes through that fight will face the winner of the last 16 showdown between Canada’s Caroline Veyre and Croatia’s Nikolina Cacic on Wednesday morning.

Making his Olympic bow in the early hours of tomorrow morning is Walsh’s younger brother Aidan. The Monkstown welterweight is up against Cameroon’s dangerous Albert Ayissi, who stopped Swaziland’s Thabiso Dlamani in the third round of Saturday’s last 32 clash.

Come through that and Walsh stands one win from securing a medal – the winner taking on whoever emerges from the meeting of fourth seed Zeyad Eashash, from Jordan, and Mauritian Merven Clair in a quarter-final clash on Friday.

Lightweight number one seed Kellie Harrington will be a keen observer of tomorrow morning’s last 32 showdown between Italy’s Rebecca Nicoli and Mexican Esmerelda Falcon Reyes, as the Dubliner will face the winner in the last 16 on Friday.

Roscommon middleweight Aoife O'Rourke enters the fray against Chinese second seed Qian Li on Wednesday morning.

TOKYO 2020 SCHEDULE

Today

57kg last 16 (6.27am): M Walsh v I Testa (Italy)

Tomorrow

69kg last 16 (3.30am): A Walsh v A Ayissi (Cameroon)

Wednesday

57kg last 16 (4.36am): K Walker v M Mirzakhalijov (Uzbekistan)

75kg last 16 (10.18am): A O’Rourke v L Qian (China)

Friday

60kg last 16 (3am): K Harrington v R Nicoli (Italy)/E Falcon Reyes (Mexico)

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Boxing