Boxing: Hawkins confident that boxing success will continue
Published 12/10/2010 | 15:14
Northern Ireland's head boxing coach Mickey Hawkins has predicted his team's extraordinary success will continue after the province sent five fighters into tomorrow night's Commonwealth Games finals.
Paddy Barnes, Eamonn O'Kane, Paddy Gallagher, Thomas McCarthy and Steven Ward all won their last-four bouts to guarantee gold medal matches and guarantee Hawkins' men an unprecedented medal haul.
Hawkins said: "The boys are on such a good run and success just breeds success. You can see it by how much the boys are pushing each other and the incredible amount of belief they all have.
"In the past couple of Games maybe the team wasn't so strong but we are where we are now and I'd say we will continue to build on this success. We've got a great set-up at home and we can only improve on it."
Much of the improvement in Northern Irish boxing is down to the Belfast-based development squad which feeds its best fighters to the fully-funded all-Ireland elite squad in Dublin.
The success is spearheaded by light-flyweight Barnes, who added the European title to his Olympic bronze medal in Moscow this year, and Tyrone McCallagh - eliminated early here - who also boasts a European medal.
Hawkins added: "Paddy has been no small part of our success. The fact he's number one in Europe and the Commonwealth has given the boys so much inspiration. We're sure he will add a Commonwealth Gold to his collection."
Barnes gets the province's final bid under way when he takes on Jafet Uutoni of Namibia and he is followed by Gallagher, who insists he will treat his welterweight showdown with England's Callum Smith like any other fight.
"The final's just going to be like any other fight for me," said Gallagher. "I won't let the pressure get to me. I know Smith's a good boxer but I'd never seen him fight before this so I will watch him on video."
Belfast bar-tender McCarthy takes on Scotland's Callum Johnson at light-heavyweight before captain O'Kane bids to wrest the middleweight title from England's man of the moment Anthony Ogogo.
O'Kane said: "I know Ogogo fancied his chances against the Indian and fair play to him, he's a talented young lad. It's a massive moment for all of us who are in the finals. It's something you dream about."
Heavyweight Ward will contest the third and final clash between Northern Irish and English boxers when he takes on the powerful Simon Vallily, who benefited from a semi-final bye.
Scotland teenager Josh Taylor has come out fighting ahead of his lightweight showdown with England's Thomas Stalker, insisting he got the better of sparring sessions against the European silver medallist.
"The last time I got the better of sparring with him," said Taylor. "I'm younger, fitter and hungrier than him. He's a great fighter and I have a lot of respect for him, but I think I'm going to win it."
Johnson is the last Scot on against McCarthy at light-heavyweight while the last remaining Welshman, 18-year-old Sean McGoldrick, goes for gold against rugged Sri Lankan Manju Wanniarachchi.