Friday 30 September 2016

Irish boxers under renewed scrutiny in trying Olympic year

Sean McGoldrick

Published 28/02/2016 | 17:14

Darren O'Neill boxing Stephen McMonagle at the 2015 IABA National Elite Championships, National Boxing Stadium, Dublin. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE
Darren O'Neill boxing Stephen McMonagle at the 2015 IABA National Elite Championships, National Boxing Stadium, Dublin. Picture credit: Piaras Ó Mídheach / SPORTSFILE

The Olympic year began on a disappointing note for Irish boxers who are under renewed scrutiny in 2016 in the wake of the controversial departure of former Head Coach Billy Walsh and the fact that the Rio Games are just five months away.

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Ireland's Olympic welterweight qualifier Steven Donnelly lost his first competitive fight of the year when he went down on a unanimous decision to an ex-European champion in Vargas, Venezuela on Saturday night.

The Ballymena native was representing the Poland franchise in the World Boxing series but lost to 2010 European champion Balaz Bacskai from Poland over five rounds.

Donnelly won the first round on two of the judges' cards but lost the other four against an opponent who had previously lost to Ireland's John Joe Joyce and Willie McLaughlin. The previous week in South America Darren O'Neill was beaten in a heavyweight contest in the WBS.

Meanwhile, the Irish squad which did not include any of the four Irish boxers who have qualified for Rio, had to be content with securing one bronze medal at the 67th Strandja multi-nations in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Light welter Wayne Kelly took home the medal but lost in the semi-final to Russia's Rio 2016 Olympian Vitaly Dunaytsev, who is the current World and European title holder.

Billy Walsh who now coaches the US women's boxing squad faces his first test early next month when the Olympic qualifying tournaments for countries in the Americas takes places in Buenos Aires.

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