Ireland struck gold on the double at the Women’s World Boxing Championships in Istanbul yesterday with Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke crowned champions within the space of an unforgettable 30 minutes for amateur boxing in this country.
Not since the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when Michael Carruth and Wayne McCullough won gold and silver at the same session, has there been a comparable moment.
Dundalk native Amy Broadhurst (25) controlled her light welterweight final bout against Algerian Imane Khelif, fashioning a thoroughly deserved unanimous win over the Tokyo Olympian.
It was a lot closer in O’Rourke’s light middleweight decider. There were fears at the midway point of that the 20-year-old Castlerea native, who was making her debut at this level, would be a victim of the vagaries of the judging system.
But when the fight was in the balance O’Rourke belied her inexperience to produce a competent final three minutes which were enough to convince four of the ringside officials to give her the nod.
Irish head coach Zaur Antia described the boxers’ achievements as fantastic. He pointed out that both Amy and Lisa had to win five fights to secure the gold medals and added the coaches had first noticed Lisa’s potential at the pre-Olympic training camp in Japan last summer where she had sparred against very experienced opponents. “She has excellent footwork, has a great intellect, always keeps calm and follows instructions.”
While Amy has worked with the High-Performance Unit for several years, Zaur said her positive approach had helped her achieve her goals. “Look at how controlled she was in the second round of the final.
“We had excellent preparations. The training camp in Assisi in Italy was fantastic and we were well rested and prepared for the championship. The mood was excellent in the camp and we are thrilled to get these fantastic results.”
For Antia, the work continues as he flies from Istanbul to Yerevan in Armenia for the European men’s championships which begin at the weekend.
The new champions also each take home a winner’s cheque for $100,000 dollars (€86,000) which is life-changing for amateur female fighters.
In O’Rourke’s case, she has never been funded by Sport Ireland and has yet to win an Irish elite title.
But she did underline her potential at the European U-22 championships earlier this year when she won the gold medal.
But joining Katie Taylor – who won five world titles – Kellie Harrington and Michael Conlan and Broadhurst as Ireland’s only world champions was beyond her wildest dreams.
Even though he has now resigned as head of the IABA’s high-performance unit, Bernard Dunne played a key role in the career development of both fighters – bringing them to Tokyo for Ireland’s pre-Olympic camp last year.
Amy Broadhurst of Ireland celebrates her victory in the IBA Women's World Boxing Championships 2022 at the Basaksehir Sports Complex in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo by IBA via Sportsfile
It was another evening when the tactical acumen of Ireland’s head coach Zaur Antia was evident as the two girls executed perfect fight plans.
First up was Broadhurst who is probably better suited to the lightweight division. But this was her fifth time to feature at the level and she made it count on this occasion. She was giving away five inches in height to her opponent who lost to Olympic champion Harrington in the quarter-finals in Tokyo last year.
In the first 30 seconds, Khelif used her jab to telling effect but once Broadhurst found her range she peppered the Algerian – particularly with body shots – and did enough to earn a crucial 3-2 advantage at the end of the first round.
The Algerian had little success against Broadhurst’s tighter guard in the second and such was the Irish champion’s dominance that two of the judges scored the second round 10-8 in her favour.
Only a catastrophic failure could have deprived Broadhurst of the gold at that stage.
Broadhurst used her experience to dominate the final stanza and she got the nod from all five ringside officials and secured the biggest win of her career on scorecards of 29-28, 29-28, 30-26, 29-28, 30-26.
Lisa O’Rourke’s opponent from Mozambique, Alcinda Panguane, was eight years older and far more experienced having won the African championship and boxed at last year’s Olympic Games and the 2018 World championships. But nothing has fazed O’Rourke in Turkey.
Her athletic prowess and excellent footwork enables her to move around the ring and stay out of reach.
Panguane, a southpaw, was forced to chase O’Rourke who boxed primarily of the back foot. But in a close first round, she delivered the clearer shots.
Three of the judges gave the Roscommon woman the nod.
Panguane switched tactics slightly, focusing on body shots in the second.
Some judges prefer fighters who are going forward. Nonetheless, the decision of the Algerian official to score the round 10-8 in favour of Alcinda was nothing short of ludicrous.
Two of the judges again gave O’Rourke the round while the remaining two gave the nod to Panguane. This meant that the fight was still in the melting pot ahead of the final stanza.
O’Rourke was two points ahead on two cards, three behind on one, while the other two had the contest level at 19-19 each.
O’Rourke changed her style slightly in the decisive third round.
For the first time in the championship she opted to fight on the front foot and she again appeared to land the clearer shots.
All but the Algerian judge agreed, and she secured a famous win on a majority 4-1 verdict.
It is the first time since the 2016 World Championships that Ireland will return with two medals.
Harrington and Taylor won silver and bronze respectively in Astana but Broadhurst and O’Rourke will be bringing home a brace of gold medals.