Wednesday 21 March 2018

Irish eyes on World golds after historic hat-trick

Michael Conlan: another medal
Michael Conlan: another medal

Sean McGoldrick

Three Irish boxers will fight in the semi-finals at the World Championships for the first time ever. Team captain Michael Conlan, Michael O'Reilly and Joe Ward are at worst guaranteed bronze medals after an historic day in Doha.

"It is absolutely fantastic to have three boxers in the semi-finals but these lads now want to go on to contest the finals," said team coach Billy Walsh.

Conlan finally achieved another of his boxing ambitions, becoming the ninth Irishman to medal at the World Championships and only the third after Katie Taylor and John Joe Nevin to win silverware at the Olympics as well as the European and World Championships.

But the current European bantamweight champion - who has already qualified for Rio via the World Boxing Series - now wants the gold. In today's semi-final, Conlan meets Dzmitry Asanau from Belarus, who won a silver medal at the European Games in Baku this year.

"It is great to complete the set of medals) but I'm here to get the gold. I plan to get gold in Rio as well. I don't think anybody has done that win gold at the Olympics, World, European and Commonwealth," said 23-year-old Conlan whose unanimous win over Tayfur Aliyev from Azerbaijan was as comprehensive as the 30-27 count on all three judges' cards.

The Irish fans in the arena had just about time to absorb Conlan's triumph when 22-year-old Portlaoise middleweight Michael O'Reilly stepped into the ring against defending world champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly from Kazakhstan.

The latter had beaten Ireland's Jason Quigley in the 75km final at the 2013 World Championships in his native country. But O'Reilly - who won the gold medal at the European Games in Baku this summer - produced a sensational performance to dethrone the title holder..

And there could be better news for the Portlaoise middleweight. The victory may earn him a spot at next year's Olympics in Rio regardless of how he fares in the semi-final. Meanwhile, O'Reilly is concentrating on today's semi-final against one of the hottest prospects at the championships, 19-year-old Bektemir Melikuziev from Uzbekistan.

"I knew it would be a tough fight going in against the world champion. He is a boxer who likes to make you miss. I knew what to do; kinda play a game of cat and mouse and feint I caught him with my left hook every time he came in. I'm delighted. Everybody has European medals but rarely have fellows world medals so I'm over the moon."

The Irishman's footwork was sensational but the fight was still tight, tactical and taut but the Irishman went through on a split 2-1 decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).

Joe Ward, who won a bronze medal at the 2013 championships, completed the hat-trick in the evening session when he outclassed Mikhail Dauhaliavets from Belarus as he had done in the quarter-finals at the European Championships this summer.

"I always going to win the fight. It is good to win a medal but my ambition coming here was to qualify for the Olympics. For me a bronze medal and not qualifying for the Olympics would be a disaster," said Ward who faces Elshod Rasulov from Uzbekistan - who beat the Olympic and world silver medalist Adilbek Niyazymbetov from Kazakhstan in the other quarter-final - in tomorrow's semi-final in the light heavyweight category.

There was no joy, however, for 19-year-old Brendan Irvine who lost to Cuban Joahnys Argilagos in his 49kg quarter-final bout. The Belfast teenager, who may mow move up to the flyweight division, had previously beaten the Cuban at a tournament in Russia in 2014 but the 18-year-old prevailed 30-27, 30-29, 29-28 for a unanimous win this time around. Irvine's defeat means two-time Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes has qualified for Rio.

Sunday Indo Sport

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