Friday 20 April 2018

Irish trio facing baptism of fire in World Championships arena

Light-welter Dean Walsh will be making his debut at this level
Light-welter Dean Walsh will be making his debut at this level

Sean McGoldrick

Three of Ireland’s seven- strong team will be action at the World Championships in Doha today.

Middleweight Michael O’Reilly, light-fly Brendan Irvine and light-welter Dean Walsh will all be making their debuts at this level.

On paper O’Reilly – whose club coach in Portlaoise BC, Pat Ryan, was elected the new president of the IABA at the weekend – faces the most difficult challenge as he has been drawn against a Ukrainian opponent Valerii Kharlamov.

Even though Ukrainian boxers picked up one silver and four bronze medals at the European Games in earlier this year in Baku, they failed to medal at the subsequent European Championship in Bulgaria which suggests their stock has fallen.

Even though he wasn’t seeded, O’Reilly is one of the form boxers in the middleweight division at the moment having captured a gold medal at the European Games as well as at a recent tournament in Warsaw.

Belfast native Irvine faces an opponent from the USA in the light-flyweight division while Wexford’s Walsh – a nephew of head coach Billy Walsh – takes on a Venezuelan light-welterweight.

Tomorrow, Belfast lightweight Sean McComb faces a Mexican opponent, while welterweight Adam Nolan will trade punches with Eimantas Stanionis from Lithuania in another last-32 bout.

Ireland’s two seeded boxers, Joe Ward and Michael Conlan, who are both current European champions, received byes into the last 16, leaving them only one win away from a medal fight.

Team captain Conlan, who is seeded at number three, will face  either a Brazilian or Australian opponent in his last-16 bout on Thursday.

 Light-heavyweight Ward, who is the fourth seed in the category, potentially faces a more difficult last-16 contest on Friday against either Oleksandr Khyzhniak (Ukraine), who won a bronze medal at the European Games, or an Algerian boxer.

“It’s a tough draw, but we expected that,” said Walsh. “Every boxer here, including our own guys, had a job just to get here.

“The quality is very high and every bout is going to be a battle. Our guys have big challenges ahead of them this week, but we are ready for it.”

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