DAVEY JOE JOYCE has fired a warning shot across the bows of Joe Ward and Ken Egan ahead of the Elite National Senior Championships.
The opening bell will toll at the National Stadium at 7.0 tonight, and over 100 fighters will be battling it out for the most prestigious prizes in Irish boxing over the next three weekends.
World No 1 Katie Taylor has entered the seeded tournament and could face Carla Wright of the Gleann BC in Belfast in the lightweight class.
Egan and Ward are odds-on to reach the light-heavy final in a repeat of the 2011 decider which Ward won. But Joyce (21), who claimed a bronze medal at the 2008 AIBA Word Youths, reckons he is going to make an impact.
"It's a lot more than a two-horse race and there's going to be a few more lads in it looking to take their chances at the Olympic qualifiers," he said.
"Joe and Ken will probably make the headlines over the next few days, but I fancy my chances. This is the best shape I've been in in a long while and I wouldn't mind bringing one of them out in the first round.
"To win the Seniors you're going to have to beat them along the way. They probably have the favourites tag but it wouldn't bother me stepping in there.
"For them to beat me they're going to have to earn it.
"I'm definitely in it to win and Joe and Kenny, or whoever comes, are going to be up against it this time," added the Ballynacargy BC ace.
After the 2008 World Youths, Joyce broke his hand and was out injured for two years, returning to win U-21 and Intermediate titles. He lost out to Ward in the 2011 Elites.
He added: "Joe beat me by six points in last year's semi-final. No excuses but I was just back from injury, but it's another day, another dawn now.
"There's lads walking around asking who will win between Joe and Ken -- but who will win between me and Joe or me and Ken? I'm going to give you something to write about."
Meanwhile, Irish head coach Billy Walsh, a seven-time Elite champion, believes that the final Olympic qualifier for European male boxers in Turkey in April has added an extra dimension to the championships.
"The National Championships this year have the makings of the best championships ever because there is so much at stake for so many boxers. The amount of talent we have in some weight divisions is phenomenal," he said.
"To pick out just one weight, welterweight, we have Roy Sheahan, John Joe Joyce, Willie McLaughlin, all world-class boxers. We have Jason Quigley dropping down to it and Michael O'Reilly -- and then there's Adam Nolan, the current champion. These Championships will be phenomenal.
"We are going to get a bit of juggling with the weights. The opportunity to qualify for the Olympics only comes around once every four years so guys are going to do whatever they can to make it."
The draws for the 2012 Elite Championships will be held at 1.30 today after the weigh-in.