Boxing

Seconds Out: Harry Hawkins questions wisdom of new Commonwealth weights

Tucker brothers, Jake and Kane, are hoping to travel to Birmingham this summer for the Commonwealth Games - though coach Harry Hawkins has questioned the wisdom of changes to the weight classes. Picture by Hugh Russell
Neil Loughran

EXPERIENCED coach Harry Hawkins has questioned the wisdom of the revamped weight classes at this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Hawkins, coaching out of the Emerald club in west Belfast, works with the likes of Dominic Bradley and the Tucker brothers, Kane and Jake, all current Ulster elite champions hoping to be part of Team NI in August.

However, following a shake-up by the International Boxing Association – formerly known as AIBA – the weight classes in Birmingham will be different to those used at the last Commonwealths four years ago.

And that has left some potential headaches for the Ulster Boxing Council and High Performance head coach John Conlan. Swatragh native Bradley, for example, claimed the Ulster 60 kilo crown in December after three performances that deservedly earned him the boxer of the tournament award.

But the 60 kilogram weight division is no longer on offer at the Commonwealths, so Bradley must decide whether to try and secure his spot at 57kg – where Jude Gallagher is reigning Ulster champion – or go up to 63.5kg, where Jack McGivern finished top of the pile less than two months ago.

Throw into the mix the likes of JP Hale, who took the Irish title at 60 kilo back in October before injury ruled him out of the Ulsters, and some big decisions will have to be made.

Jake Tucker’s middleweight class remains, but it looks as though elder brother Kane – currently competing in the Irish U22 Championships at 86kg - will have to drop down to the Commonwealth weight of 80 kilos in order to keep his dream alive.

Hawkins has been involved in boxing for a lifetime, and believes the change in weight classes represent an “unhealthy” move for the sport.

“It’s quite hard to believe that the Commonwealth weights are what they are,” he said.

“In the men’s weights they’ve dropped 48 kilo, dropped 60 kilo, so you’ve a gap there of 57 kilos to 63.5, which is totally unhealthy and shouldn’t have been passed by any medical expert.

“Then at Kane’s weight, they have 80 kilos and the next weight after that is 92 – 12 kilos of a difference. How can you justify that? Some of these guys who enter at 92 kilos would be coming down from maybe 98, 99 kilos to make that, then you have kids sitting not too far over the 80 kilo limit, and it just seems very unfair. I think it’s very unhealthy for the sport.

“In both those cases, that’s a serious gap and I don’t think it should be done. Even looking at the Olympic weight for Kane, it was 81 kilos - it’s only one kilo of difference but when you’re coming down it all counts.

“It’s just hard for Kane because he’s smack in the middle. We’ll take advice from the High Performance and get the diet right and everything else.

“At Kane’s age, he’s too young to be building up into a 92 kilo boxer. Maybe later in life, but not at the minute, so we have looking at bringing it down, but bringing it down properly.

“Clubs been asked to let the Ulster Council know what weight they’re going to do, then they’ll bring them into a training camp. That’s fair enough, it’ll be done fairly I’m sure, but I do just think the lads need as much competition as possible before the Games.”

Jake Tucker, meanwhile, had been due to enter the U22s as well until it was discovered that he had fractured a bone in his hand during the Ulster elites.

Tucker defeated Ardoyne’s Lex Weston in an all-action middleweight decider at Girdwood Community Hub, and Hawkins expects him to be back punching very soon.

“He was a bit sore from his first fight at the Ulster elites, went on and got it well wrapped up for the final, then we brought him to see a hand specialist and there was the fracture.

“So that took him out of the U22s, and he was really looking forward to them. It’s on the mend, it’s very good now, the cast came off last week so hopefully he’ll be back punching soon.”

TUCKER TO FACE MYERS IN U22 DECIDER

KANE Tucker will face Jason Myers in Saturday’s Irish U22 final, having come through the challenges of Kian Hedderman in the quarter-final and Raging Bull’s Luke Walsh on the way.

The 21-year-old is one of several Ulster boxers in action this weekend, with Star’s Louis Rooney taking on Banbridge’s Dylan Foy for the 46kg U18 crown on Friday. Carleigh Irving (Oakleaf) faces Kanturk’s Katie O’Keefe at 50kg, while there is a walkover win for Immaculata’s Karl Reilly (44kg)

In the U22s on Saturday, Antrim light-fly Nicole Clyde takes on Smithfield’s Ciara Walsh and Holy Trinity’s Clepson dos Santos is up against Cian O’Toole at 51kg.

Promising 54 kilo fighter Dylan Eagleson (St Paul’s) faces Athy’s Michael Stokes, while there are walkover wins for St John Bosco’s Padraig Downey (48kg), Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers (50kg) and Clonard’s Ben Ferran at 57 kilos.

Tucker versus Myers promises to be an intriguing bout between two emerging talents, and the Emerald man’s coach Harry Hawkins is just glad to see his charge back in competitive action.

“I wanted to enter him into these U22s so he gets as much experience as possible - we’ve had two fights so far and are looking forward to the final.

“Myers is a good lad too, when most people saw the entry they would’ve probably picked those two out for the final, but we’re confident.

“When Kane lost to Darren O’Neill in the Irish elites, he was just coming off Covid, there wasn’t much preparation. That’s not making excuses, it was a good close fight. Getting rounds at that stage was the most important thing.

“That was his first fight in over a year-and-a-half, we just had to keep going, then in the Ulster elites he got a walkover, so he didn’t get a fight there.

“Had it not been for the pandemic, by this stage I would like to think Jake and Kane would have maybe 10 or 15 international fights behind them. Those are the most important learning years and I really feel sorry for any young boxers of 17, 18, 19 during all this.

“Gaining international experience brings you on so much, but it’s been the same with every sport. And to be fair to the lads, they’re so dedicated, they kept working. We’re just mad to get any competition now.”

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Boxing