Irish duo in sight of gold
IRELAND'S World Youth champions Joe Ward and Ray Moylette are through to today's finals at the European Senior Championships following semi-final wins over Hungarian and Azerbaijani opponents in Ankara, Turkey, yesterday.
Moylette, the 2008 AIBA World Youth champ, beat Hajiliyev Heybatulla in the light-welterweight class to set up today's final with Thomas Stalker of England.
And 17-year-old Ward, the 2010 AIBA World Youth champ, followed that up with a comprehensive 18-8 win over Hungarian puncher Imre Szello, who is 11 years older than the Irish teenager.
Ward, who boxes out of the Moate BC in Westmeath, will now meet Russian Nikita Ivanov in today's 81kg final.
Ivanov replaced world champ Egor Mekhonstev on the Russia team for Turkey as head coach Nikolay Khromov continues to keep his cards close to his chest ahead of the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan, next September/October.
Ward and Ivanov sparred at Ireland's training camp in Russia this year and Irish team manager Des Donnelly reports that Ward, one of the youngest finalists in the 87-year history of the European Championships, was well able for the Russian.
Ward was 11-4 up going into the third round of yesterday's semi-final and even found time to beckon Szello forward, a cheeky gesture that earned the 2009 AIBA World Junior champion a ticking off from the ref.
"Joe was in against a vastly experienced opponent and he made him look ordinary," said Irish head coach Billy Walsh. "It was a fantastic performance."
Meanwhile, Moylette recorded a deserved victory over Heybatulla, with the St Anne's BC Westport light-welterweight winning 18-16.
A close duel saw both boxers share the first round 4-4 and the second 9-9, before Moylette, who was landing most of the cleaner shots throughout, claimed the final round and victory.
Liverpool native Stalker, a silver medal winner at the 2010 European Championships and the current Commonwealth champ, received a walkover against Italy's Vincenzo Mangiacapre in the other semi-final. It is understood that Mangiacapre was injured.
Walsh added: "The final score didn't reflect Ray's performance. It was a fantastic display, particularly in the third round when he pulled out all the stops."
Moylette, who broke his left hand after falling on ice last Christmas, sparred with Stalker in a training camp in Sheffield earlier this month and vowed there'll be no slip-ups this time. "We sparred in two sessions at the training camp in Sheffield recently and he won some and I won some. I learned a lot from those sessions to tell you the truth," he said.
"I'll be going in to enjoy myself in the final and I'll be giving it everything. Thomas Stalker is a good boxer, make no mistake about that. It will be a tough, tough one but I'm confident."
IABA Director of Boxing Dominic O'Rourke, who was at ringside in Ankara, hailed Ward's and Moylette's performances in the Turkish capital.
"Joe and Ray produced brilliant performances. I thought that Ray's winning margin should have been bigger. He won by two points but it should have been more.
"We know Thomas Stalker well and I think Ray will beat him. Eric Donovan and Ross Hickey beat him (Stalker) and he beat them so we know what we are coming up against in the final."