Friday 6 December 2019

Irish boxer Darren O'Neill to step up his Rio Olympics bid

Darren O’Neill. Photo: Sportsfile
Darren O’Neill. Photo: Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

Darren O’Neill, who captained the Irish Olympic team in London in 2012, steps up his bid to make the squad for the Rio Games when he makes his debut in the World Boxing Series on Saturday night.

Having boxed in the middleweight division four years ago, the Kilkenny native has now switched to the heavyweight division. He faces a Russian opponent, 28 year old Sergey Kalchugin in the Venezuelan capital Caracas.

O’Neill is boxing for the Caciques Venezuela franchise against the visiting Russian squad. He travelled to South America together with Irish coach Eddie Bolger earlier this week.

While this is O’Neill first venture into the WSB series his Russian opponent has won two of his six WSB fights in 2011.  All fights are over five rounds and the boxers do not wear vests.

Regardless of how he faces in this contest, O’Neill looks destined to qualify to box at an Olympic qualifier tournament next May in Bulgaria – he only needs to take part in two WBS contests in order to be eligible to box in Bulgaria.

But there is only one Olympic slot available in the heavyweight division available at the qualifier in Sofia.

At the moment Ireland have four boxers qualified for Rio, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan – who both qualified through the WSB series – Joe Ward and Steven Donnelly. Only Russia (8) and Cuba (7) have more boxers qualified.

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