Boxing: Burnett produces magnificent display to take Youth Olympics title and raise London hopes
SURPRISE, SURPRISE, a boxer wins Ireland's only medal at an Olympic event -- now where have we heard that before?
Ryan Burnett created another piece of Irish sporting history after claiming gold at the inaugural Youth Olympics in Singapore yesterday.
Burnett, from the Holy Family BC in Belfast, finished on top of the light-flyweight podium after outgunning Salman Alizida of Azerbaijan 13-6 over three three-minute rounds.
The 48kg decider was the curtain-raiser for yesterday's boxing finals programme, making the Ulster teenager the first ever Youth Olympics boxing champion.
After his win, the Belfast teenager told the Irish Independent he would "not stop training" until London 2012.
"I'll be going for that full-blooded and I think I have a good chance," he said. "It would mean so much to get a medal there -- just amazing. It's a big step up to senior level, but I think I'm able for it."
He returns home from Singapore tomorrow evening and family and friends have said they will be at Dublin Airport to give him a hero's welcome.
"I've been here for two weeks and every day has been a great experience, but I can't wait to get home," said Burnett.
"I know I've done Ireland proud and I've done my family proud. I've kept in touch with everyone through the internet and they are all just so proud of me.
"I'm really looking forward to coming through those doors at Dublin Airport knowing I've achieved something big for Ireland," he added.
Ryan's dad, Brian, said the whole family were "absolutely delighted" with his win. "It's just fantastic. He's achieved so much and been working at it for so long. We're very proud of him.
"I've always had faith in my son and I knew he was coming home with gold. I want Ryan to go to London, fight for his country and come back with a sack full of gold," he said.
Ryan's coach, Gerry Storey, said the focus now is on the Olympics. "He has a great chance. Any competition that lad goes into, we're expecting him to win. We'll be disappointed if he doesn't come back with a gold medal," he said.
Yesterday's duel was also a repeat of May's AIBA World Youth final in Baku, Azerbaijan, which Alizida won. He also controversially beat Burnett on a countback following a 3-3 tie in the President's Cup in Azerbaijan last December.
However, Burnett, who said before the final that he felt he'd won those two contests, but that he hadn't been given the scores, exacted sweet revenge, dropping Alizida with a lovely left in a neutral corner in the third en route to victory.
The 18-year-old, who had Jim Moore and Jimmy Payne working his corner, said he was amazed with the level of support he got at the Convention Centre in Singapore.
The entire Irish Youth Olympics squad and more were at the venue for the final -- during which both boxers ceded two points after receiving public warnings for fouls -- and cheered their man all the way down to the final bell.
"I couldn't believe the support I got and I would like to thank everyone. It was a great boost as it was very tough in there. I always felt that I'd won the previous two fights with him (Alizida), but that I just didn't get the scores on the day," said Burnett.
Dominic O'Rourke, the Irish Amateur Boxing Association director of boxing, hailed Burnett's performance as magnificent and said that he showed great skill and composure in the ring in what was always going to be a difficult contest.
Pat Hickey, the president of the Olympic Council of Ireland, who presented Ken Egan with his silver medal at the Beijing Olympics, is hoping that he'll be presenting another Irish boxer with a medal in London.
However, Burnett may have to beat his Holy Family clubmate Paddy Barnes -- a bronze medal winner at the Beijing Olympics and the current European champion -- to secure his place in London. "I said to Ryan that if he keeps progressing the way he is then I could be presenting him with a medal in London," said Hickey.
Burnett was Ireland's only medal winner in the Singapore event.