Irish duo strike gold
Moylette and Ward show class to claim European titles
IRELAND celebrated another historic medal haul yesterday after striking double gold at the 39th European Senior Championships in Ankara, Turkey.
Ray Moylette, the 2008 AIBA World Youth lightweight champion, and Joe Ward, the 2010 AIBA World Youth middleweight champ, sealed memorable wins in the light-welterweight and light-heavyweight categories.
Moylette romped home to a convincing 18-10 decision over England's Thomas Stalker, while Ward showed remarkable composure for a teenager to see off the challenge of Russian brawler Nikita Ivanov in the Turkish capital.
Moylette (21), who boxes out of St Anne's BC in Westport, shared the first round 5-5 with the busy Liverpudlian, a silver medalist at the 2010 European Championships and the current Commonwealth champion.
However, Moylette, working comfortably behind his trademark high guard, fired home some quality body shots and left and right hooks in the second to command a 12-8 advantage at the bell.
Stalker continued to throw plenty of ordnance in the third, but his punches lacked quality and accuracy, while Moylette kept picking him off on the counter, one thudding left hook finding the target as Stalker was loading up mid-way through.
Ward -- at 17 -- is at the minimum age required for senior boxing and he became one of the youngest champions in the 87-year history of the blue riband tournament of European boxing.
He has also joined an illustrious cast which includes Dubliner Jimmy Ingle, who was 17 when he claimed gold at the 1939 European Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin.
Another Irishman Paddy Dowdall won gold the same day.
The Moate BC clubman claimed the first round 7-3 and was 15-6 up at the end of the second, a frame in which Ivanov, who had winged in a low blow earlier, ceded two points after receiving a public warning for another low blow.
The Russian continued to try and bully his way to gold in the third. However, it was Ward's great boxing skills and accurate counter-punching that captured the eyes of the judges and the European 81kg title 20-12.
"Raymond and Joe were absolutely brilliant. They went all out to win and they delivered. Everyone in the squad is absolutely thrilled with the wins and to be taking home two gold medals," said Irish team manager Des Donnelly.
Ward says his target is now the Olympics.
"I'm over the moon. It's fantastic to win it. I thought I was brilliant in there. He tried to bully me a bit, but I picked off the cleaner shots, covered up and picked him off. I sparred against him in Russia a while back and I knew I had the measure of him," said the Irish Elite champion.
"I'm the European champion now and that's brilliant. This is another step on the ladder for me. The next step is getting to the Olympic Games, that's my next goal. I'm delighted with my win, delighted to win another gold."
Irish head coach Billy Walsh, who worked Ireland's corner with Zuar Antia and Jimmy Halpin, said: "It's fantastic to be coming home with two gold medals and the lads have created another piece of Irish boxing history. We were a bit deflated when we lost four quarter-finals the other day.
"I felt we should have won a few of those quarters. Raymond and Joe really picked it up for us and they went all out for victory."
Moylette added that they had done their homework on Stalker and reckons his performance in the final was his best in his five fights en route to gold.
"It's always nice to beat an Englishman, especially in a final. It will take me a while to get my head around the fact that I'm the best in Europe in my weight -- I'm still trying to get my head around the fact that I won a World Youth title three years ago, to tell the truth.
"I am thrilled with the win. We did the video analysis on him and we knew he was going to throw long shots. I was comfortable in there and I think I produced my best performance in the final.
"We're conditioned for tournaments like this and I didn't feel tired, although it was tough making the weight every morning, that was probably the toughest part.
"But I'm going home with a European gold -- we'll have a bit of a celebration when I get home tomorrow."
Ireland finished in joint third spot with Wales in the medals table at the 39-nation tournament. Russia, Azerbaijan, Ireland, Wales and hosts Turkey, in that order, finished in the top five.
Yesterday's wins come one year after Paddy Barnes claimed European light-flyweight gold in Moscow to bridge a 19-year gap since Paul Griffin won our last (male) gold at this level in 1991.
Barnes didn't compete in Turkey because of a hand injury, while Katie Taylor will be aiming for her fifth European title in a row later this year.
The Irish squad are due to arrive at Dublin Airport at 10.20 this morning.
The World Championships and Olympic qualifiers will take place in Baku, Azerbaijan in September/October.