Friday 23 February 2018

Irish medal hope one fight away from an Olympic place after dominant last 16 win

Sean McGoldrick

Ireland’s Michael O’Reilly is one step closer qualifying for the Rio Olympics but faces his moment of truth in the quarter finals.

The Portlaoise middleweight breezed into the last eight at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Baku with a unanimous 3-0 win over Shinebayer Narmandakh from Mongolia.

But the World championship bronze medallist will have to beat local favourite Kamran Sharksuvarly in Thursday’s last eight contest to secure his place in Rio.

O’Reilly, who is the number one seed in the tournament, was desperately unlucky not to get a decision in a box-off for an Olympic spot at the World championships in Doha last year.

Now he will have to impress the judges again and secure a clear cut victory over the Azeri boxer, which is difficult because of his southpaw stance.

In the event of the Irishman losing on Thursday, he might still make it to Rio if Sharksuvarly wins the tournament as there are five Olympics places available.

The four semi-finalists will all secure spots but traditionally the fifth place is given to the boxer beaten by the eventual gold medallist, though this has to be confirmed at this tournament.

Meanwhile, super heavyweight Dean Gardiner is two wins away from reaching Rio. He comfortably outpointed his Ukrainian opponent Viktor Vykhrust 3-0 in the quarter final.

The Tipperary native had the contest virtually wrapped up after two rounds when he led 20-18 on all three judges’ card. He lost the last round but it didn’t affect the overall result as he secured a unanimous 3-0 decision with a 29-28 score on all three cards.

However, Gardiner has to win the tournament in order to secure the single Olympic slot available for super heavyweights.

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