Monday 25 September 2017

Quigley's heroics cap red-hot day for the Irish

Jason Quigley, Ireland, celebrates after beating Ievgen Khytrov, Ukraine, in their 75Kg Middleweight semi-final bout.
Jason Quigley, Ireland, celebrates after beating Ievgen Khytrov, Ukraine, in their 75Kg Middleweight semi-final bout.
John Joe Nevin after his victory

Bernard O'Neill

IRISH head coach Billy Walsh will have to hose down the remainder of the Ireland squad at the European Championships in Belarus because they are on fire.

John Joe Nevin, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan and Jason Quigley are all through to today's finals after blasting their way through their last-four bouts.

Yesterday was a special one for Cavan BC bantamweight Nevin as he celebrated his 24th birthday with yet another victory and a semi-final win, but it was Quigley who stole the show with a stunning victory over current world champion Ievgen Khytrov of the Ukraine.

It was crucial that the Donegal man – the 2009 and 2012 European Youth and U-23 champion – took the first frame against the No 1 seed in what turned out to be an epic 75kg battle.

And, despite one or two hairy moments on the ropes, the Finn Valley BC orthodox did just that, using his counter-punching ability to edge the first, before claiming the second to set up a thrilling third round.

Khytrov was lashing in some big shots throughout this encounter, but Quigley, who has grown in stature at this tournament, stood up to his opponent and returned fire at every opportunity.

The world champion remonstrated about the verdict after the final, but the Ecuadorian, German and French judges thought differently. They scored it 30-27, 30-27 and 29-28 to the Irish Elite champion.

"You know you have to pull it out of the bag. That there was the best performance of my life," said Quigley.

"my third European medal and a third European final – I'm absolutely buzzing."

Barnes, the No 2 seed, got Ireland off to a perfect start with victory over No 3 seed, Salman Alizada of Azerbaijan.

The Belfast light-fly, the 2010 European champion, detonated multi-punch combos throughout and got a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) over the 2011 European champion, but admitted he was worried about a nose bleed.

Barnes said: "It was bleeding heavily, but not as heavily as it was against the Hungarian, thankfully.

"It required a lot of work from the doctor in the corner to stop it bleeding. I kept telling the doctor, 'come on, there's only three seconds to go', and he kept laughing at me.

"I was gobsmacked to see him (Alizada) ranked ahead of me in the world rankings.

"He was a current champion, but that's because I wasn't there (Barnes was injured for the 2011 Europeans). Still, it's great to get a win against a European champion."

Nevin handed himself the perfect birthday present with a unanimous decision over Russian Vladimir Nikitin.

Boxing mostly off the back foot, Nevin used his slick counter-punching skills to subdue most of Nikitin's advances. The Russian, a constant ball of aggression, took the fight to the No 1 seed from the opening bell. But Nevin kept rocking his opponent with lefts and rights on the counter.

The Olympic Games silver medalist will meet Mykola Butsenko of the Ukraine in today's 56kg decider.

Nevin will be a hot favourite to collect gold as Butsenko was hammered by Nikitin in the semi-finals of the inaugural European U-23 Championships in Russia last year.

"I had to start quick, got the first two under my belt," said Nevin. "I think he got the last round. He was piling on the pressure alright.

"I knew once I won the first two, he was going to come out like a roaring lion looking for a stoppage.

"Again, I started fast and that was the aim. Any Russian boxer is not to be sneezed at. They are all good boxers, the third ranked, the fourth, they're all good Russians."

Conlan completed a perfect day for Irish boxing with a split decision (30-27, 30-27, 28-29) over Russia's Ovik Ogannisyan.

Switching from his normal orthodox stance to southpaw and back throughout the three-rounder, the London 2012 bronze medalist landed the majority of the cleaner shots en route to victory. He'll now meet a familiar foe, Wales' Andrew Selby, who beat him by a single point in the quarter-finals of the 2011 World Championships in Baku.

European Championships,

Live, RTE2, 11.45

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