Saturday 23 March 2019

Joe Ward targets World gold after surviving scare


Ward: Battered but not beaten. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Ward: Battered but not beaten. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Bernard O'Neill

Joe Ward will be aiming for his third European title in Ukraine in June after claiming his fifth Irish Elite belt last night.

The Moate BC light-heavy,who missed the last two National Championships because he was contracted to AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) and technically ineligible, beat Dubliner Anthony Browne in the decider.

Browne looked in trouble inside the opening ten seconds after being sent flying onto the ropes from a big left, but found his feet swiftly to worry the European champion, particularly in the second, opening up a cut above his eye.

Ward, however, got the better of enough of the big exchanges to take a 4-1 verdict.

"There's no place like the National Stadium on finals night, said Ward, who, aged just 17, stunned Olympic finalist Ken Egan in the 2011 decider.

The World Championships in Germany in August/September is a big target for the Rio Olympian, who reached the final in 2015 in Doha but was beaten by Cuba's Olympic champion Cesar de la Cruz.

"The Europeans are the only qualifiers for the Worlds, so I'll be looking to retain my title there, and, all going well, go one better than Doha in Hamburg," he added.

Meanwhile, Dubliner Kellie Harrington beat Tipperary's Shauna O'Keeffe on a 4-1 split to take the lightweight title vacated by Katie Taylor , the World Elite silver medallist earning a unanimous decision to seal her seventh Elite crown.

Kurt Walker outpointed Stephen McKenna in an up-tempo contest to secure his third successive bantamweight crown and the deeds to the bantam 56kg position vacated by Michael Conlan.

"That means I'm the best in Ireland no matter what. Last year I beat the flyweight champion, now I beat the light-flyweight champion," said Walker.

"I'm going to head out to the Europeans to win a medal because I'll be two or three times better than that, especially working with Zaur (Antia) and Eddie (Bolger) and John (Conlan, father of Michael).

Belfast light-fly Kristina O'Hara forced Mayo's Shannon Sweeney into a standing count in the third en route to the 48kg title, while Grainne Walsh forced Gillian Duffy, who had Peter Taylor working her corner, into three standing counts to take home the vacant welterweight title.

Dervla Duffy dethroned defending featherweight champion Moira McElligott, and Leona Houlihan and Blaine Dobbins also had their hands raised in victory.

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