Monday 5 December 2016

Gardiner and Walsh facing key bouts on Olympic road

Bernard O'Neill

Published 11/04/2016 | 02:30

Ireland's Dean Gardiner. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Ireland's Dean Gardiner. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile

Dean Walsh and Dean Gardiner are preparing for the biggest fights of their respective careers after clearing the first hurdle on the road to Rio at the Olympic Games qualifier in Samsun, Turkey.

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Walsh achieved a unanimous 3-0 decision over Erik Agataljan of the Czech Republic, while Clonmel super heavyweight Dean Gardiner had an equally comfortable win over Norway's Simen Nysater. Both have been pitted against classy Azerbaijani opponents in their next outings.

Welterweight Walsh, a medallist at the European Championships last year, faces number one seed Lorenzo Sotomayor.

A native of Cuba, Sotomayor is a nephew of track and field legend Javier Sotomayor, the world high jump record holder. He moved to Azerbaijan in 2013 and won a gold medal at the inaugural European Games in Baku last year.

Gardiner, meanwhile, takes on the number three seed Mahammadrausl Majidor.

Olympic champion Katie Taylor opens her campaign this evening against Martina Schmoranzova of the Czech Republic, who has dropped from light-welter to lightweight.

Azerbaijan's Yana Alekseevna beat England's Chantelle Cameron on Saturday and could meet Taylor in Friday's semi-finals.

Only the finalists are guaranteed a place in Rio, with the beaten semi-finsalists getting another chance to qualify at the World Championships in Kazakhstan in May.

Taylor beat Alekseevna, who once boxed for the Ukraine, in the last four en route to gold at the European Games in Azerbaijan last year.

But the fight was fraught with tension, with Taylor coming the closest she's come to a legitimate defeat this decade after the judges scored it level and then opted for Taylor on a split verdict.

Three other members of the Irish team will also be in action today.

Brendan Irvine - the number one seed flyweight - takes on five-time German 52kg champion Hamza Touba, who won a bronze medal at the European Games last year and has experience of action in World Series Boxing.

The other two female boxers in the squad, flyweight Ceire Smith and middleweight Christina Desmond, also make their debuts, with Desmond facing the number one seed from the Netherlands.

Joshua wants more

Anthony Joshua insisted he is not yet satisfied at becoming the IBF heavyweight champion and revealed he was more excited at securing his title shot than winning the title itself.

The 26-year-old clinically stopped defending champion Charles Martin in the second round of only his 16th professional fight to win the IBF heavyweight title. Joshua said: "We've got more to go. Probably when I retire I will be happy but as I'm still fighting, I've got to put this behind me."

Meanwhile, Manny Pacquiao defeated Timothy Bradley by a unanimous decision in the rubber match between the fighters on Saturday. Pacquiao, who bounced back from a controversial split-decision defeat to Bradley in 2012 with a decisive win two years later, delivered the final blow in their welterweight clash in Las Vegas as all three judges scored it 116-110 in his favour.

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