Tuesday 22 May 2018

Irish boxer Christine Desmond edges closer to Rio qualification with stellar display in Turkey

Christine Desmond.
Christine Desmond.

Sean McGoldrick

Cork middleweight Christine Desmond secured the biggest win of her career today at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Turkey when she defeated 2014 European champion Nouchka Fontijn from the Netherlands.

The Dutch girl was the number one seed in the 75kg weight division but Desmond produced the performance of her life to reach the last eight.

Team colleague Ceire Smith from Cavan also advanced to the last eight in the flyweight category with a win over Barankai Virginia from Hungary.

Later today Olympic champion Katie Taylor meets Czech lightweight Martina Schmoranzova. The Irish camp will also be keeping an eye on the clash between Azeri lightweight Yana Alekseevna and Turkish veteran and multi medallist Gulsum Tatar, who was once Taylor’s nemesis after beating her on three occasions between 2005 and 2007.

Taylor subsequently avenged those losses and it is Ukrainian born Alekseevna who has emerged as Taylor’s biggest rival in the last two years.  They clashed in the semi-final of the European Games in Baku last summer with Taylor winning on a majority decision after all three judges scored the contest 38-38.

The odds favour Taylor and Alekseevna meeting in next Friday’s semi-final.  Only the winner is guaranteed a place in Rio, though the loser will have another chance to qualify at the World championships in Kazakhstan to May.

Desmond and Smith also have to reach the finals in their respective weight divisions to secure a place in Rio at this tournament.

There was bitter disappointment for Wexford’s Dean Walsh, however, as he bowed out of the qualifiers on a split decision against the number one seed Lorenzo Sotomayor.

Walsh, a nephew of former Irish coach Billy Walsh, comfortably won his opening bout on Saturday.  But he was on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision against Cuban born Sotomayor, who is a nephew of track and field legend Javier Sotomayor, the world high jump record holder.

Sotomayor, who switched allegiance to Azerbaijan in 2013,  won the gold medal in the 64kg category at the European Games in Baku last Summer.

Walsh, a bronze medallist at the European championships last year, made him fight all the way.  Indeed, one judge awarded him all three rounds and two other judges gave him the last round as well.

Crucially, however, these two judges gave Sotomayor the nod in the opening two stanzas which paved the way for his 29-28; 29-28, 27-30 victory.

All is not lost for Walsh who will have one final opportunity to reach Rio at the final qualifying tournament in Baku in June. But he could yet be challenged for the place by his Irish rival Ray Moylette – who celebrates his birthday today.

He is aiming to keep his Olympic ambitions alive at another tournament for boxers who compete in the World Boxing Series and AIBA Professional Series – though there is now a possibility that establ

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