Monday 19 February 2018

Conlan plays captain's part on dream day for Irish trio

Michael Conlan
Michael Conlan

Bernard O’Neill

Team Ireland recorded three wins from three at the Boxing World Elite Championships in Doha, Qatar yesterday. Irish captain Michael Conlan, Brendan Irvine and Michael O’Reilly are through the last eight following decisions over opponents from Brazil, Turkey and Australia in the Persian Gulf.

Conlan and Irvine had to come from behind after dropping the first rounds on two of the three cards at the Ali bin Hamad Al Attiyah Arena.

But Irvine, at 19 the youngest of the Irish squad, outboxed Turkish light-fly Muhammet Unlu in the final two frames to book his ticket into the last eight on a split decision.

 He’ll now meet Cuba’s youngest squad member, 18-year-old Joahnys Argilagos, in a repeat of the 2014 Paylyukov Youth Memorial final which the Antrim teenager won on a split verdict in Russia.

The stakes couldn’t be higher in the rematch, however, with at least a World Elite bronze medal up for grabs.

Victory will also advance Irvine to within one win of qualifying for the Olympics. The top-two light-flyweights (the finalists) in Doha qualify for Rio 2016.

Two judges also went against Conlan in the opening stanza of his bantamweight three-rounder with Robenilson de Jesus, but the Irish skipper bounced back to secure a majority decision.

The two-time Brazilian Olympian received a public warning for hitting below the belt in the second round, with Conlan receiving a standing count off the illegal blow in one of the more peculiar rules of amateur boxing.

Conlan, the No 3 seed who has already qualified for the Olympics, meets Azerbaijan’s Tayfur Aliyev for at least bronze tomorrow.

O’Reilly, the current European Games champion, forced Australian middleweight Daniel Lewis into a standing count off a combo in the first round of yesterday’s 75kg encounter.

That might have been a 10-8 round to O’Reilly, but the judges marked it 10-9 each to the Irish Elite champion, who took the next two stanzas to earn a 30-27, 30-37, 29-28 verdict.

Kazakhstan’s Zhanubek Alimhanuly, the 2013 AIBA World Elite champion, awaits the Portlaoise BC man in the last eight.

The Irish camp won’t have far to look for background on the Kazakh, as he beat Donegal’s Jason Quigley, who has since turned pro, in the 2013 world final in Kazakhstan.

“Brendan and Michael showed tremendous intent to come back after losing the first round and come back out with all guns blazing against two very tough opponents,” said Irish head coach Billy Walsh.

“Tremendous performance also from Michael (O’Reilly). He completely outboxed his opponent in the first round.

“Three wins from three today and we’re obviously delighted with that.”

European champion Joe Ward and Sean McComb will be in action in Doha today.

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