Saturday 1 October 2016

Heartbroken Brendan Irvine: I thought I did enough to win the gold

Irishman disappointed despite silver in Baku

Bernard O'Neill and David Hooper

Published 26/06/2015 | 02:30

Brendan Irvine scknowledges the applause after being presented with his silver medal in Baku
Brendan Irvine scknowledges the applause after being presented with his silver medal in Baku

Irish light-fly Brendan Irvine was controversially edged out of a gold medal a split decision in Baku, Azerbaijan, yesterday.

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Russian southpaw Bator Sagaluev was adjudged to have won the 49kg final (29-28, 29-28, 28-29) - a verdict that left Ireland head coach Billy Walsh shaking his head.

"I thought we won rounds two and three. Brendan hit his opponent more than the Russian hit him. That's supposed to be the name of the game," said Walsh.

"We thought he won. I can't understand it, but we are very proud of Brendan. He is only 19 he's won a silver medal at his first major tournament. That's a fantastic achievement for such a young man."

25 June 2015; Brendan Irvine, Ireland, with coaches Gerry Storey, left, and Zaur Antia following his Men's Boxing Light Fly 49kg Final bout with Bator Sagaluev, Russia. 2015 European Games, Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
25 June 2015; Brendan Irvine, Ireland, with coaches Gerry Storey, left, and Zaur Antia following his Men's Boxing Light Fly 49kg Final bout with Bator Sagaluev, Russia. 2015 European Games, Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Sagaluev, who had a three-inch height disadvantage, had the measure of the Antrim teenager in the opening round, which he deservedly won 10-9 across the board.

Irvine was on top for most of the second, but only one judge gave him that round even though the Antrim 19-year-old repeatedly found the target with the cleaner head and body shots.

The Irishman, continuously harassing and peppering the Russian, won the third 10-9 on all three cards but, ultimately, the second-round scoring decided the destination of the gold medal.

"There's a lot of mixed emotions. I'm delighted with the silver, but so very disappointed to lose in the final," said Irvine. "He was quite sharp in the first and for the first 15 seconds of the second, but I took over from there and he didn't want to know.

Irvine added: "You've got to take it as it comes. It was a close fight, but I thought I'd done enough in the second and third rounds to win it.

"I just gave it 110 per cent in the ring. That's all the coaches ask of me, and I'm happy enough about that, and how I've come on.

25 June 2015; Brendan Irvine, Ireland, after being presented with his Men's Boxing Light Fly 49kg silver medal. 2015 European Games, Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
25 June 2015; Brendan Irvine, Ireland, after being presented with his Men's Boxing Light Fly 49kg silver medal. 2015 European Games, Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

"I'm proud of my achievement. I'm only 19 years of age, and it's my first senior competition for Ireland. So there's a lot of positives to take out of it.

"I'll go back into the ring and learn from it. I wanted the gold medal when I first came here, but I never thought I'd get this far."

There was some consolation for Irvine in that he has qualified for the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers, which will be held in Qatar in October. He also picked up 500 ranking points, which will see him enter the AIBA World elite rankings in a top 12 position for the first time when the table is updated.

Meanwhile, Olympic champion Katie Taylor (8.45am), Sean McComb (9.0am) and Michael O'Reilly (10.0am) will be in action this morning.

Taylor and McComb meet boxers - Albert Selimov and Yana Alekeevna - who once fought for Russia and the Ukraine respectively at international level, but who are now trading leather for Azerbaijan.

Selimov won a AIBA World elite title for Russia in 2007 in Chicago and is the only man to have beaten the Ukraine's two-time Olympic champion Vasyl Lomachenko in the amateur ranks.

25 June 2015; Brendan Irvine, Ireland, right, exchanges punches with Bator Sagaluev, Russia, during their Men's Boxing Light Fly 49kg Final bout. 2015 European Games, Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
25 June 2015; Brendan Irvine, Ireland, right, exchanges punches with Bator Sagaluev, Russia, during their Men's Boxing Light Fly 49kg Final bout. 2015 European Games, Crystal Hall, Baku, Azerbaijan. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

O'Reilly faces Russian middleweight Maxim Koptyakov over three three-minute rounds for a place in tomorrow's 75kg decider.

Taylor won her fifth successive AIBA World elite gold by beating Alekeevna, who boxed for the Ukraine as Yana Sydor up to 2012, on a unanimous decision in the lightweight final in Korea last November.

The final scores read 40-36, 39-37, 39-37 to Taylor, with the Bray woman winning rounds two and four on all three cards and splitting the judges in her favour in rounds one and three.

Women's bouts are contested over four two-minute rounds. Five judges, who are chosen just before the fight, score a bout.

However, only three of the judges' scores are used. None of the judges know until after the contest which scores are used.

"I concentrate only on my own performance once I'm in the ring. The world final was tough and I'm expecting the same this time," said Taylor.

"I said all along that my target out here is gold. That's always my aim. The atmosphere will be electric. I relish that and am looking forward to it."

Victory this morning would not only secure at least silver for Taylor; it would also guarantee that the Olympic champion is seeded No 1 at the World Elite Women's Championships and Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan next February.

A win would see Taylor pick up 500 rankings points which would ensure that No 2-ranked Yin Junhua of China cannot usurp the Wicklow orthodox at the top of the rankings table even if she wins gold at the Asian Championships in August. Victory over Alekeevna would also ensure that Taylor will go into 2016 ranked No 1 in the world for an unprecedented 10th successive year, regardless of how she does in the final.

Taylor suffered an injury to her left hand while beating Alekeevna in Korea and didn't return to competitive action until May when she secured two wins over Swedish opposition in Listowel, Co Kerry and her native Bray.

Those two victories, combined with her two wins in Baku so far, have improved the 28-year-old to 158 wins in 165 outings in her career - a 95pc strike rate.

Because of the Olympic Games next summer, it has been a relatively short turn-around since Taylor claimed her fifth successive world title at the expense of Alekeevna last November to February's World Championships in Kazakhstan.

The Baku Games have no bearing on Kazakhstan as such - with the exception of ranking points.

But Taylor, who was the only boxer to retain her world title in Korea last year, will want to send out the message in Baku that she's still the one to beat in the lightweight class on the road to Rio 2016.

Irish Independent

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