Sensational Michael O'Reilly win guarantees bronze medal for Irish boxer
Twenty two year Michael O'Reilly has guaranteed himself a bronze medal at the World championships in Doha after scoring a sensational win over the defending title holder Zhanibek Alimkhanuly from Kazakhstan.
And there could be better news for the Portlaoise middleweight. The victory may have earned him a spot at next year's Olympics in Rio. There are three places up for grabs in the 75kg weight category in Doha.
However, one of the four semi-finalists Arlen Lopez from Cuba has already qualified for the Olympics which seems to clear the way for the other three boxers in the last four to go through automatically without the need for a box-off.
The Irish party are awaiting confirmation from AIBA about the exact situation and for the moment while O'Reilly is concentrating on tomorrow's semi-final against one of the hottest prospects at the championships 19 year old Bektemir Melikuziev from Uzbekistan.
O'Reilly and Melikuziev clashed earlier this year in a tournament in Bulgaria with the Irishman losing on a split decision.
At the World championships two years Donegal's Jason Quigley lost in the semi-final to the Kazakh boxer. But Irish team coach Billy Walsh said the Irish camp had learned much from that fight and decided on different tactics today.
So O'Reilly let his opponent come forward and caught him while he was retreating. The Irishman's foot work was sensational but the fight was still tight, tactical and taut.
O'Reilly got the verdict on all three judges' cards after the first round. Alimkhanuly upped his work rate and took the second leaving the contest dead level going into the third. Again it was a cat and mouse game between the pair. It seemed as if O'Reilly hadn't landed with enough punches but he showed iron discipline by not going forward.
His body language at the final bell suggested that he felt he had done enough to win and two of the judges agreed as he went through to the semi-final on a split 2-1 decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29).
'I knew it would be a tough fight going in. I knew what he would do; play a game of cat and mouse and feinted. That's that he kept doing. I clipped him every time with the left hook,” said O'Reilly.