Monday 22 January 2018

Only three Olympians competing at IABA Elite championships highlights how amateur boxing is suffering

Darren O'Neill
Darren O'Neill

Sean McGoldrick

TWENTY four hours after becoming the youngest candidate to be elected to the new executive of the Olympic Council of Ireland, London Olympian Darren O’Neill returns to his roots tonight when he bids for a place in the heavyweight final at the IABA Elite championships in the National Stadium.

The penultimate bouts in both the men’s and women’s championships are scheduled for the next two nights. The finals take place next Friday night.

But it is a measure of the downward spiral of amateur boxing in the last 12 months that only three Olympians, O’Neill, Brendan Irvine and Joe Ward are competing, though Dean Walsh – who has moved up to welterweight - is a European bronze medallist.

Still, this line-up pales into the shade when compared to the array of talent in action at the 2011 championships, for example, which featured Olympic medallists, Kenny Egan and Paddy Barnes, a future Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin as well as Darren O’Neill, Joe Ward, Jason Quigley, Ross Hickey and Tyrone McCullough all of whom had or went on to win championship silverware at international level.

Having turned down offers to turn professional World silver medallist Joe Ward is back competing in the Elite championships for the first time in three years – he had been excluded due to his involvement in the AIBA professional series.

Having missed out on the opportunity to take on American ‘wunderkid’ Shakur Stevenson in the semi-final at the Rio Olympics after being robbed in the quarter-finals, Michael Conlan could now face him in the professional ranks.

The US based Top Rank organisation which recruited Conlan, has now added Stevenson – who was beaten in the Olympic final on a split decision – to their stable of professional boxers.

Realistically, however, it is unlikely that Conlan and Stevenson will face each other in the ring until they both make progress in the professional ranks where initially, at least, they may campaign at different weights.

Incidentally, the fall-out from the Rio Olympics continues but for one influential Russian boxing official it was a personal triumph!

Vladimir Tebekin, vice-president of both the Russian and European Boxing Federations was presented with a ‘Man of the Year’ award at a glittering ceremony in Moscow’s Golden Palace by the Russian Boxing Federation.

Tebekin hails from the Belgorod district of Russia where Vladimir Nikitin – who was given the controversial decision over Conlan - and Evgeny Tischenko who secured an equally dubious decision in the heavyweight final are also both from.

Meanwhile, a head cold has forced James Conlan to postpone his upcoming fight against Yader Cardoza at the Belfast Waterford on Saturday, February 18th.

Conlan – who is Michael’s older brother – was due to take on Cardoza for the vacant WBC international silver super flyweight title but will now face the Nicaraguan on March 10th.

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