Rio dreams derailed as Ward pays the penalty
Ireland's boxing woes at the Rio Olympics took a disturbing turn for the worse in the Riocentro last night with the shock exit of medal contender light heavyweight Joe Ward in the preliminary round.
On his Olympic debut, the 22-year-old Moate southpaw failed utterly to justify his fourth seeding when he crashed out against an unheralded Ecuadorian Carlos Mina. Ward was controversially docked two points by the referee, presumably for holding, which cost him the fight.
So after five days of competition Ireland has lost three of their primary medal contenders, Ward, Paddy Barnes and Michael O'Reilly, who was sent home in disgrace after failing a dope test.
This is now a full blown crisis for the squad and as the losses accumulate - David Oliver Joyce exited the tournament on Wednesday night - there is a sense of powerlessness about how the situation can be turned around.
But even though Ward has two world championship and two European gold medals in his trophy cabinet, Mina achieved something which the Irishman had failed to do. The Ecuadoran beat Cuban world number one Julio La Cruz in the APB series - albeit on a controversial split decision.
Ward waited for Mina to attack and in a clumsily start to the contest they were both on the canvass after a minute. There were few direct shots thrown in a very scrappy contest and the referee was the busiest man in the ring. Ward looked happy at the end of the first round and he got the verdict on two of the judges' cards.
The second round followed the untidy pattern with the referee again speaking to the two boxers. Ward did manage to get off a couple of clear shots but it was all very untidy.
By now it was a scrap with neither boxer taking control although it finally opened up in the final minute with Ward getting off a couple of big shots. But it wasn't sufficient to compensate for the two points penalty as he went out on a split 2-1 decision.