Friday 30 September 2016

Irvine makes light of taxi mix-up to take long route to quarter-finals

David Hooper

Published 20/06/2015 | 02:30

Ceire Smith, Ireland, right, exchanges punches with Camilla Johansen, Norway,
Ceire Smith, Ireland, right, exchanges punches with Camilla Johansen, Norway,

Brendan Irvine got his international career off to a flying start as he progressed to a bronze medal match at the European Games.

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The 19-year-old light-fly Holy Trinity fighter showed no nerves as he settled quickly and proceeded to win a unanimous decision against Bulgarian Tinko Banabakov 30-26, 30-27, 29-28.

The victory, however, came with some drama, as Irvine arrived in the Crystal Hall, home of boxing at Baku 2015, just minutes before the scheduled start time.

"We got a taxi, rather than use the athlete buses and the taxi man brought us to the boxing federation building rather than the boxing venue," revealed head coach Billy Walsh.

"It took us longer to get across to the arena, due to the road closures that are in place for the cycling road race and we got to the arena only two bouts before the fight."

That didn't seem to faze Irvine, who claimed his first national senior title last January, as he proceeded to land some early combinations.

Dedicated

"That was the plan," explained Irvine, who also beat Banabakov on a split decision in the Gee Bee final in Helsinki in March.

"I worked with the coaches to get a fast start. You need to win the first round if you want to win the bout."

Irvine, who dedicated the victory to his late father, controlled the fight, with only one judge (a local) not scoring him a ten across the three rounds.

The Antrim teenager will now meet the host country's top seed Salman Alizade, whom Paddy Barnes beat in the 2013 European Elite Championships in Belarus.

Ireland's Ryan Burnett, who has since turned pro with Ricky Hatton, also beat Alizade in the 2010 Olympic Youth final in Singapore.

Meanwhile, Cavan flyweight Ceire Smith produced a controlled performance in her opening bout to secure a unanimous decision - 40-36 across the boards - over Norway's Camilla Johansen.

Smith will face Russia's Salana Sagatavea in the last eight on Monday.

Michaela Walsh, Dean Gardiner, Myles Casey, Sean McComb and Adam Nolan will be in action today.

Darren O'Neill, Dean Walsh and Michael O'Reilly will be between the ropes tomorrow along with Olympic lightweight champion Katie Taylor, who makes her debut at the Games against Bulgaria's Denista Eliseeva.

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