Boxing: Egan out as six bid to book London tickets
SIX Irish boxers will battle it out for Olympic places at the AIBA World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan today.
European light-heavyweight champion Joe Ward, the St Michael's Athy BC pair of Roy Sheehan and David Oliver Joyce, Darren O'Neill, Michael Conlon and John Joe Nevin are just one win away from reaching the quarter-finals and securing places at the London Games.
Tipperary's Con Sheehan, meanwhile, will face Italy's 2008 Olympic gold medalist and two-time World champion Roberto Cammerelle in the last-16 today. However, super-heavyweights must reach the semi-finals to secure Olympic berths.
O'Neill, a teacher at the Holy Trinity school in Dublin, Joyce and Nevin advanced to today's eliminators following wins over Egyptian, Afghan and Indian opponents respectively yesterday.
But Irish captain Ken Egan, a silver medal winner at the 2008 Olympics, bowed out. The Dublin southpaw was retired by the Irish corner one minute and 20 seconds into the third round after being forced into a standing count by Cuba's Jose Larduet-Gomez in the heavyweight class.
Larduet-Gomez was very generously adjudged to have been 23-11 up against Egan, who had a fine second round, going into the final stanza.
"He worked me out very quickly. I was attacking, catching him with counters," said Egan, who only moved up to heavyweight this year.
"He boxed well. He caught me with some great shots. There was nothing I could do, I gave it everything I had. I know I'm good enough to be up at this weight.
"It's all a work in progress. It's not over until the fat lady sings," he insisted.
Belfast light-flyweight Paddy Barnes, a bronze medal winner at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing and the 2010 European champion, also exited following a shock 20-12 defeat to Mark Anthony Barriga of the Philippines.
Meanwhile, ex-Kilkenny minor hurler O'Neill was involved in an edge-of-the-seat middleweight clash yesterday, the Paulstown BC southpaw edging a tough 75kg duel with Mohamad Hikal of Egypt 15-13. He'll now meet Bulgaria's Mladen Manev today in a repeat of the 2010 European Championships clash which O'Neill won 6-0 en route to claiming a silver medal in Moscow.
"It was a very tough fight against a very experienced opponent. He's been to two Olympics Games. It took James DeGale, the Olympic champion, to put him out of the last Olympics in Beijing," said O'Neill after his win over Hikal.
"He's previously won a bronze medal at the World Championships so I knew it wasn't going to be a walkover. I'm delighted with the win -- there's more in me and hopefully we'll see that.
"I'm going to enjoy this victory for the night. Billy and Zuar (Ireland coaches Walsh and Antia) will do the analysis.
"He (Manev) won't be happy about losing the last time. He'll have his homework done. Look, I'm in with a chance and that's all I can ask for."
Stylish Cavan bantamweight Nevin, a bronze medal winner at the 2009 World Championships, denied India's Akhil Kumar the opportunity to qualify for his third Olympic Games with an impressive 21-14 verdict.
Lightweight Joyce, who was a convincing 26-13 winner over Mohammad Khaiber of Afghanistan yesterday, summed up the mood of determination in the Irish camp ahead of today's crucial deciders.
"I'm buzzing at the minute because my next fight will be for a place in the Olympic Games. I've been there four year ago, trying to qualify. When I got beaten in Athens it was the last qualifier," he said.
"I said four years is going to be a long time. Now I'm here fighting for a spot. I'll just get in there and give it everything I have, fight to the last bell just to get that place at the Olympic Games."
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