Gardiner faces his own Italian job for Olympic spot
Tipperary super-heavy Dean Gardiner is aiming to take a leaf from the Euro footballers' book and do an Italian job at the Olympic Games qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Clonmel fighter meets Italy's Guido Vianello the final today, with a place in Rio the prize for the winner.
Gardiner ousted Moldovan southpaw Alexei Zavatin 29-28 across the board in their 91kg + semi-final to set up the defining showdown with a familiar foe.
Vianello beat Gardiner on a split decision at the EU Championships in 2014 in Bulgaria, but the Tipp orthodox avenged that loss at the European Games on a unanimous decision in Baku last year.
Gardiner detonated the majority of the cleaner shots in two cagey opening rounds to lead 20-18 on all cards going into the final frame.
The Moldovan, surprisingly lacking in spark given what was at stake, picked up the pace in the third but the 10-9 margin in his favour only decreased the margin of defeat.
Vianello beat Marlo Moore of the USA in the other semi-final yesterday to end the prospect of an Ireland v USA clash for an Olympic place with Billy Walsh working the American corner.
Meanwhile, Portlaoise's Michael O'Reilly is through to today's middleweight final versus Turkmenistan's Arslan Achilov after beating Iraq's London 2012 Olympian Waheed Abdulridha Waheed 30-27.
It was a frustrating afternoon for the Baghdad police officer against the slick counter-punching skills of O'Reilly.