Wednesday 18 September 2019

Ward's backing Harrington to crown a golden year

Kellie Harrington has her hand raised in victory after her semi-final. Photo: AIBA/Sportsfile
Kellie Harrington has her hand raised in victory after her semi-final. Photo: AIBA/Sportsfile

Bernard O'Neill

Irish female boxing has never lost an AIBA World Elite lightweight final and Kellie Harrington will battle all the way down to the final bell to ensure she doesn't lose one in New Delhi today.

That was the verdict of three-time European champion Joe Ward, who is backing his Irish team-mate to reclaim the belt that Katie Taylor held in a vice-like grip between 2006 and 2014.

The Dubliner meets Thai southpaw Sudaporn Seesondee over three, three-minute rounds looking to re-assert Ireland's dominance of the 60kg limit at the 10th edition of the tournament.

Seesondee claimed Asian Games silver last year and bronze at the 2014 Worlds. She also eliminated Finland's number one seed Mira Potkonen, who beat Taylor at Rio 2016, in New Delhi this week.

Harrington (28) has won three fights on unanimous decisions and one split verdict en route to the final. Seesondee (27) has earned three splits and a unanimous verdict on her way to bout number 262 of the 73-nation tournament.

Ward reckons St Mary's BC stand-out Harrington, an eight-time Irish Elite champion, is in the zone.

"I've been watching her over the last few days and she's boxing really well, I really think she can go all the way. She just needs to focus on her performance," said the three-time World Elite medallist.

One way or the other there'll be a new name on the lightweight title in New Delhi this afternoon, but, hopefully for Irish boxing, not a new nation.

Ireland, courtesy of Taylor, has won the belt five times. Canada has claimed it twice and France and Russia once since the inaugural tournament in the USA in 2001.

France's Rio 2016 champion Estelle Mossely stopped Taylor's bid for six in a row at Kazakhstan 2016 , where Harrington claimed light-welter silver, and won the belt to end Ireland's dominance.

But Mossely, whose partner, Tony Yoka, beat England's Joe Joyce in the Rio 2016 Olympic super-heavy final, has turned pro and the lightweight crown is vacant.

"Kellie is very focused and sharp. She has won four fights so far and performed brilliantly. We have a good atmosphere here. We have a good approach and we've got confidence," said head coach Zaur Antia, who is working Ireland's corner with Dmitry Dimitruk.

New Delhi marks the final tournament of the year for Irish boxing which was won an impressive 41 medals - including nine golds - in nine male and female World and European competitions in all age grades since April.

Harrington can make that 10 gold medals today and cap a vintage year for the sport in Ireland. Ten finals will be decided with action due to begin at 10.30am (Irish time).

Ireland, Germany and Netherlands are western Europe's representatives. The USA, under former Irish head coach Billy Walsh, lost three semi-finals yesterday and will not be represented in the finals.

The six-strong Irish squad are due to arrive home at 4pm tomorrow via Dublin Airport.

Irish Independent

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