Michael O'Reilly's steely determination and Michael Conlan's class to be tested in Doha
Michael Conlan and Michael O'Reilly have weighed in Doha ahead of the biggest night in their respective careers.
O'Reilly can cap a sensational 2015 to becoming the fourth Irish boxer to secure a place at the Rio Olympics if he wins his box-off against veteran Egyptian Hosam Abdin.
The 22-year-old, who was born in Clonmel but now resides in Portlaoise, has come of age at elite international level this year. But ever since his teenage years he has shown a steely determination to reach the top both inside and outside the ring.
In 2011 O'Reilly won a High Court challenge against a decision of the Irish Amatuer Boxing Association to drop him from the squad preparing for the European Youth championships in Dublin for an alleged breach of discipline.
He went on to give a distinguished performance at the event before being the victim of a poor decision in the final. He won his first Irish Elite title in 2014 with a split decision success over Darren O'Neill in the 75kg category and later than year he won a silver medal at the European Union champioships.
But he has come of age in 2015 reaching the final of the prestigious Standja Memorial tournament in Bulgara in February before securing the gold medal at the inaugural European Games in Baku which qualified for the World championships in Doha.
He is guaranteed a bronze medal regardless of what happens this evening. So far this year the only boxer who has beaten him is Bektemir Melikuziyew – who defeated him in Bulgaria and again in the semi-finals in Doha.
Fatigue could be an issue for the Irishman as this is his fifth contest in a week. Nonetheless he ought to have too much class for the Egyptian who succeeded expectations by reaching the semi-finals
Meanwhile, Michael Conlan now has the honour of qualifying for the Olympic via two routes but the only thing on his mind is the gold medal in the bantamweight category. “I want to have the complete set, Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth. I don't think any boxer has done that,” said Conlan.
Conlan has looked a class apart in these championships but the biggest test comes tonight against 20 year old Murodjon Akhmadaliev from Uzbekistan, one of the form countries in Doha. The Uzbek boxer who switched to the 56kg category this year won a silver medal at the 2012 World Youth championships
The Irishman, the current European champion, is more experienced and street wise and could switch to a southpaw style – as he did at the Europeans – to upset his opponent. The Irish fans in the arena will make their voices heard and at his best Conlan is capable of securing that elusive World title.
*Michael O'Reilly's fight begins at 5.30m Irish time (approx) with Conlan due in the ring half an hour later.