Boxing

Seconds Out: Hale 'buzzing' after World Championship selection

Young members of Star ABC wish JP Hale well as he heads for the World Elite Championships in Belgrade. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

AFTER a fortnight of ‘will they, won’t they’ speculation, newly-crowned Irish champion JP Hale admits he is “buzzing” to have been included in the squad bound for the upcoming World Elite Championships in Belgrade.

Until Saturday’s official announcement from the Irish Athletic Boxing Association (IABA), it remained unclear whether Ireland would be sending a team to the championships, which run from next Tuesday until November 6.

It is understood there were concerns within the High Performance unit that some members of the prospective squad didn’t have enough experience to make the step up to elite international level in such a short space of time – with a host of new Irish champions crowned on October 3, and none of the Tokyo Olympians taking part.

Having been called to Abbotstown in the wake of those championships, boxers were later informed that Ireland would not be sending a team to the Worlds for the first time since 1978.

However, following further discussions evaluation at a week-long training camp in Sheffield - which included Great Britain, France and Germany – a seven-man team was announced, with Hale and Mullaghbawn’s 67kg Irish champion Eugene McKeever, who boxes out of the Holy Family club in Drogheda, leading the Ulster charge.

Yesterday it was confirmed that experienced Raphoe official Peter O'Donnell will be Irish team manager in the Serbian capital.

Despite the uncertainty of the past couple of weeks, Hale insists he has enjoyed every second of his involvement with the High Performance unit, having proved himself in sparring against some top quality operators in Sheffield.

And while moving up to world level is a big step after capturing a first national elite crown, the 20-year-old can’t wait to get going.

“It feels like everything’s happened so fast, but I’m ready for it. I’m fit, I haven’t stopped training, so I feel like it’s perfect for me,” said Hale, who boxes out of the Star club in north Belfast.

“This is what you want, it’s what I’ve been training for. Every time I fight, it’s never a one-sided win over the other guy, or I get beat completely hands down – it’s always a good fight.

“I fought the Kazakhstan number one a few years ago, I’d say I did 20 to 25 rounds of sparring in Sheffield, and I handled myself well. I feel I can mix it with those guys.

“It gave you a real taste of what it’s all about.”

The fact he was under the microscope as selection hung in the balance added an extra layer of pressure, but Hale had no doubt he would earn his spot once coaches saw him at close quarters.

“I knew if I did my best, there was no way they couldn’t send me.

“It was weird but if they didn’t send a team, they would’ve had something else planned for us. Now that they’re sending a team, I feel like I’m ready for it.

“They didn’t know much about us all, but once they saw us spar and train, they must have reckoned we were good enough to go. I’m number one at the weight and if I can mix in with these other boys in sparring, then I should be able to get picked.

“I’m just buzzing at the minute - I’m not thinking about anything other than my first fight out there.”

AIBA World Elite Championships

48kg: R Nesbitt (Holy Family, Drogheda)

51kg: S Mari (Monkstown)

57kg: A Hession (Monieva)

60kg: JP McHale (Star)

63kg: B McCarthy (St Michael’s, Athy)

67kg: E McKeever (Holy Family, Drogheda)

80kg: K Cassidy (St Savior’s/Crystal)

******************

Holy Trinity's Jon McConnell lost out to Brandon McCarthy in the Irish elites last month, but is back in the ring tonight. Picture by Hugh Russell

BOXING TO RETURN TO ULSTER WITH CHAMPIONSHIPS

NOT since February 25, 2020 has a competitive glove been thrown in anger in an Ulster ring – but that will change tomorrow night when the Ulster senior and novice senior championships get under way at Corpus Christi boxing club.

Finals night of the 2020 Ulster elites was an unforgettable affair for anybody lucky enough to be inside the Ulster Hall. BBC cameras rolled at ringside as the action was streamed live, Paddy Barnes was KO’d by young Dáithí Mac Gabhann to a rapturous round of applause.

A host of new champions were crowned as optimism filled the air, familiar foes JP Hale and Colm Murphy rounding off proceedings with a barn-burning bantamweight final worthy of topping the bill anywhere.

And then, nothing for 20 months as, in a sporting context, the Covid-19 pandemic took a particularly heavy toll on indoor activities. Amateur boxing in Ireland only returned in September with the 2021 Irish Elites, and now a schedule of Ulster and County Antrim competitions will bring boxing back to the masses for the remainder of the year.

Throughout the long lay-off, regular fears were voiced about what impact the uncertainty and absence of competitive action would have on the sport long-term, about the next generation who had been left in no-man’s land.

With over 150 boxers undergoing medicals for the Ulster senior and novice senior championships, it’s fair to say the early signs are encouraging that no lasting damage has been sustained.

Caution remains the order of the day and, as at the National Stadium, no spectators will be allowed into Corpus Christi over the next three nights. With the Ulster elites scheduled for December 7-10, with finals night on December 17, officials are hoping that will change sooner rather than later.

There will be no shortage of talent on show over the coming days, with Holy Trinity’s Jon McConnell out to move on from the disappointment of his Irish elite defeat to Brandon McCarthy when he faces Anthony Malanaphy (Erne) in the 63.5kg semi-final tonight.

The fight after that, at 67kg, promises to be a cracker too, with Clonard’s Ben Ferran going toe-to-toe with Eoghan Quinn from the St John’s club in Swatragh, while Thursday’s 51kg final will pit Padraig Downey (St John Bosco) against Ederney’s tough Rory Baird.

SCHEDULE

Ulster senior & novice senior Championships

Tonight (8pm, Corpus Christi BC)

Preliminary

67kg novice A: D Greer (Holy Trinity) v D Bell (Phoenix), I West (Antrim) v M McCrory (Gleann)

Quarter-finals

63.5kg novice A: J Ferguson (Canal) v S Sloan (All Saints); 71kg novice A: C Fitzsimmons (SJ Bosco, Belfast) v B Russell (Gleann), B Scott (Ormeau Road) v N Boyle (Evolution), P Curran (Golden Gloves, Down) v E Murray (Rathfriland), J Millar (Canal) v C McKinney (Holy Family); 75kg novice A: P Reid (H Family) v K Nicolo (Evolution), O Ketterick (Dungloe) v F McGingley (Raphoe); 92kg novice A: C Harbinson (Belfast Met/Spartans) v J Cooley (Saints); 75kg open: C McLaughlin (Raphoe) v G Glackin (Waterside)

Semi-finals

57kg open: A Thompson (Spartans) v A Baird (Ederney); 63.5kg open: T Burns (Canal) v M O’Doherty (Clonard), J McConnell (Holy Trinity) v A Malanaphy (Erne); 67kg open: B Ferran (Clonard) v E Quinn (St John’s); 71kg open: C Duffy (Illies GG) v R Johnston (Clonard), O McDermott (Raphoe) v J Boyd (Gleann); 80kg open: R Kinney (Scorpion) v JJ Adams (Gleann)

Tomorrow (8pm)

Quarter-finals

67kg novice A: Winner 1 v winner 2, M Davidson (Star) v D Bogue (Enniskillen), A Lowe (Emerald) v J Roland (Carrigart), B Dubois (Evolution) v E Kearns (Sacred Heart, Newry)

Semi-finals

57kg novice A: C McCrudden (Emerald) v R McGoldrick (Saints); 63.5kg novice A: S O’Dwyer (Gleann) v winner 3, C McCabe (St Paul’s) v S Murphy (Armagh); 71kg novice A: winner 4 v winner 5, winner 6 v winner 7, winner 8 v winner 9; 75kg novice A: N Grew (St Paul’s) v C Gallagher (Ormeau Road); 92kg novice A: M Quinn (Gleann) v winner 10, F Lowe (Frank Gervin, Clonoe) v C Maguire (Dockers); 92+kg novice A: N Hughes (Gleann) v W McCart (Gilford); 63.5kg novice B: J Robinson (Gleann) v J Green (Canal); 80kg novice B: D McNally (Cookstown) v T Lewis (Midland), TJ Doherty (Gleann) v H Good (Letterkenny); 75kg open: L Weston (Ardoyne HC) v winner 11; 75kg open: E Maughan (Cavan) v P Clarke (Errigal)

Thursday (8pm)

Confirmed finals

51kg novice A: S Og Fay (St Paul’s) v A Taylor (Bangor Abbey); 80kg novice A: M Conlan (Frank Gervin, Clonoe) v I Ward (Frank Gervin, Clonoe); 86kg novice A: G Robinson (Midland) v J Lodder (Twintowns); 71kg novice B: T McMahon (Star) v D Crilly (Clonard); 86kg novice B: N Clinton (Immaculata) v K Kearns (Emerald); 51kg open: Padraig Downey (SJ Bosco) v R Baird (Ederney); 60kg open: L McKee (Star) v R Owens (Erne); 92+kg open: D Ferran (Dockers) v A Travers (Carrickmore)

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