For the first time, Ireland will have two boxers fighting for gold medals at the same women’s World Championships.
Light welterweight Amy Broadhurst and 20-year-old Lisa O’Rourke – who fights at light middleweight - secured historic wins in Istanbul this afternoon to secure at least silver medals plus guaranteed prize money of €43,000 each.
While Broadhurst has been viewed as a potential champion for years, O’Rourke, who celebrated her 20th birthday last week, has emerged as the unsung Irish hero.
The younger sister of Tokyo Olympian Aoife, Lisa has hit an amazing streak of form this year. She was crowned European U-22 champion in the spring, but this pales into insignificance compared to boxing for gold on her debut at the World Championships.
Her semi-final win is all the more noteworthy as she got the decision, and deservingly so, against a hometown fighter Sema Caliskan.
This is Broadhurst’s fifth appearance at the World Championships. The 25-year-old Dundalk southpaw was beaten in her previous four appearances at the quarter-final stage before finally smashing the glass ceiling in Istanbul.
She sparred with world professional champion Katie Taylor earlier this year and has looked in form throughout the championships.
She faced 19-year-old Indian light welterweight Parveen Hooda in the semi-final.
In the first round, she deployed her skills to telling effect and comfortably won the round on all five judges’ cards. The Indian decided that her best chance was to turn the contest into a brawl and that’s precisely what she did in round two. She tied up Broadhurst at every opportunity, which disrupted her rhythm.
Three of the judges gave the Parveen the round, which left the fight in the balance going into the last three minutes of action. Again, Parveen did her best to disrupt Broadhurst, but the Irish champion had more success at getting her shots on targets.
It was a close call, but four of the judges gave her the nod, which enabled her to win the fight on a majority 4-1 decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
Broadhurst will meet Algerian Imane Khelif in the final – the latter was beaten by Kellie Harrington in the quarter-finals of the lightweight category at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Twenty minutes later, it was the turn of Castlerea native Lisa O’Rourke – who boxes out of the Olympic Club in Galway – to attempt to turn bronze into silver.
O’Rourke’s agility around the ring and her exceptional footwork have been a feature of her performances in Istanbul.
She used these traits to telling effect in the opening round, but it was Caliskan who edged it in the eyes of the judges, scoring it 3-2 in her favour. But O’Rourke belied her inexperience at this level as she dominated the second round, landing a succession of scoring shots and doing enough to convince all five judges to give her the nod.
Facing into the final round, O’Rourke was ahead on two cards with three judges scoring the fight level – so everything depended on the last of the three rounds. O’Rourke delivered when it mattered. The round was was summed up in the last second when O’Rourke deftly avoided a desperate swing from Caliskan.
All but one of the judges gave O’Rourke the round, enabling her to post a unanimous win on scorecards of 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28, 29-28.
She will meet Helena Alcinda from Mozambique in the final. The latter has already created history by becoming the first boxer from her country to medal at world championship level.
Regardless of how the pair fare in their finals, they are now entitled to additional funding from Sport Ireland. Both face a dilemma going forward because, as things stand, neither of their weight divisions are included in the Olympic programme for Paris.
Broadhurst, who will represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham later this summer, could revert to lightweight for Paris, but that would mean challenging Kellie Harrington. Alternatively, she could move up to the 66kg welterweight division.
The choices facing O’Rourke are no less stark. She could try and make the 66kg division for Paris – the alternative is moving to middleweight at 75kg, where she would have to challenge her older sister.
However, there is so much uncertainty about the boxing tournament at the Paris Olympics that the weights could yet be changed if boxing is retained for the 2024 Games.
Katie Taylor won five gold medals and a bronze medal at world championship level, while current Olympic champion Harrington – who was ruled out of Istanbul because of injury - has previously won a gold and a silver medal.