Thursday 21 September 2017

Boxing: John Joe Nevin won't be easily replaced - Billy Walsh

Paddy Barnes at the Ireland team announcement for AIVA World Championships
Paddy Barnes at the Ireland team announcement for AIVA World Championships

Bernard O'Neill

IRELAND head coach Billy Walsh has set his squad a target of two medals at next month's AIBA World Elite Men's Championships in Kazakhstan.

Ireland's nine-man team fly out to Kazakhstan on Sunday ahead of the opening bell for the 17th edition of the championships in Almaty on October 13. Ireland head to Central Asia minus the services of London 2012 silver medalist John Joe Nevin, who has signalled his intention to turn professional.

Walsh admitted that Nevin is a loss but stressed that their focus is on the job at hand, adding that the hunt for Nevin's successor has already begun.

"You can't replace him (Nevin) at the flick of a switch. He's a massive talent, one of the best boxers to ever wear an Irish vest. It will take us a while to replace him," said Walsh.

"It's a disappointment but it's quickly forgotten. We will start the search for his successor, but our focus now is on the World Championships.

"We have guys ranked in the world and Europe. Those are the guys you are looking at for medals. We've set a target of two medals and the quality is there to achieve that."

Ireland were in training camp in Kazakhstan last April and Walsh reckons the return trip will play a key part in their fine-tuning.

"We've already done the run to Kazakhstan and it took us five days to get over the trip. That's why we're going out early this time," he said.

"We have a 10-day camp with the host nation arranged and we'll try to get three or four quality test days with them. Then we'll be fine-tuned and ready for competition."

Ireland's male boxers have never managed to reach a World Elite final – Katie Taylor has claimed four World Women's Elite gold medals.

Seven medals, all bronze, have been won since 1982. Tommy Corr, Michael Carruth, Damien Kelly, Stephen Kirk, James Moore and Nevin (2) finished in podium positions.

Following an AIBA rule change, the 2013 World Championships will mark the first occasion that boxers compete without head guards since the early '80s.

Walsh, Zuar Antia and Eddie Bolger will work Ireland's corner in Kazakhstan. Paul McMahon is team manager.

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