Saturday 16 February 2019

Katie Taylor's Olympic Games qualification sets new record for Irish boxers

Sean McGoldrick

Katie Taylor’s safe passage to the Rio Olympics has created another historic milestone for Irish boxing.

Taylor’s quarter final victory at the World championships in Astana means that Ireland now has seven boxers qualified for the Rio Games in August – their biggest representation since the pre-qualification process was introduced prior to the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

Six Irish boxers, including gold medal Michael Carruth and silver medallist Wayne McCullough boxed in Barcelona alongside Kevin McBride – who famously beat Mike Tyson later in his career – Paul Griffin, Paul Douglas and Paul Buttimer.

World champion Michael Conlan has been named in the Ireland team for this summer's Rio Olympics
Michael Conlan

But with two qualification tournaments still to come Ireland have seven boxers assured of places in Rio. Paddy Barnes (light fly), Brendan Irvine (fly), Michael Conlan (bantam), David Oliver Joyce (light), Steven Donnelly (welter) and Joe Ward (light heavy) together with defending Olympic  60kg women’s champion Katie Taylor have secured their spots.

While no other Irish female boxer other than Taylor can qualify for Rio, a number of Irish male boxers including World bronze medallist Michael O’Reilly, European medallist Dean Walsh, Darren O’Neill and Dean Gardiner are still in the mix.

A measure of the impact of the IABA’s  High Performance Unit can be seen from the spectacular increase in the number of Irish boxers who have qualified for the Olympics over the past decade.

Only one Irish boxer qualified for both the Sydney and Athens Olympics in 2000 and 2004; five Irish boxers made it through to Beijing   where Kenny Egan won silver and Paddy Barnes and Darren Sutherland each took bronze.

Ireland had six boxers at the London Games with Katie Taylor winning gold; John Joe Nevin winning silver while Barnes and Michael Conlan secured bronze.

Meanwhile, Katie Taylor won’t get an opportunity to avenge the defeat she endured against Yana Alexseenva at the Olympic qualifier in the semi-finals of the World championship on Thursday. The Azeri boxer was defeated by France’s Estelle Mosselly in today’s quarter final in Astana.

While at face value the outcome was a surprise Alexseenva has a habit of underperforming when she competes outside her adopted country. 

Interestingly, the teenager Italian boxer Imna Testa who also qualified for Rio in Turkey failed to make it past the first round at the World championships.

Taylor has never lost against Mosselly  – her most recent win against her came in the final of the inaugural European Games in Baku last Summer.

All the indications are that the Bray lightweight will remain on course to become the first ever female boxer to win six successive World title.

Remarkably she has only suffered one defeat at the World championships in her inaugural appearance at the event in 2005.

Ireland’s other semi-finalist Kellie Harrington, who is from Portland Row in Dublin, meets Sara Kali from Canada in Thursday’s light welter semi-final. Already assured of a bronze medal – she cannot qualify for the Olympics as there is no category for 64kg boxers in Rio.

It was a good day all round for Irish female Olympians as single sculler Sanita Puspure qualified for her second Olympics when finishing second in the final qualifying regatta in Switzerland to comfortably claim one of the four Olympic places available.

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