Split decision puts brakes on Donnelly's Rio ambitions
Steven Donnelly's ambition of qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics through the World Series of Boxing (WSB) 2015 season are over despite his victory in Andria, Italy on Saturday night.
The Irish welter, boxing for the Hussars of Poland, beat Italia Thunder's Dario Morello on a split decision (48-47,48-47,47-48) after five rounds of a 69kg slug-fest.
But just four points are awarded for split decisions - as opposed to a max of five for unanimous decisions, a KO or TKO - and Russia's Radzhab Butaev and Morocco's Mohammed Rabii have now qualified for Rio.
The top two welters book tickets for the 31st Olympiad. Butaev and Rabii are joint top on 29 points, six ahead of Ballymena-native Donnelly, at the top of the table.
Butaev and Rabii will probably meet in their last fight on April 24, while Donnelly's last bout is against Venezuela the same day, but he can now only reach 28 points.
Irish coach Eddie Bolger was working Donnelly's corner in Andria on Saturday, while Irish head coach Billy Walsh praised his performances.
"Stephen has won five out of five and has had a fantastic campaign so far. He came up a bit short on Saturday night, but he's really shown his capabilities in the WSB," he said.
Meanwhile, Walsh and John Conlan will be working the corners of Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan when they line out for Italia Thunder against opponents to be confirmed away to Venezuela this Saturday.
Barnes is in pole position in the WSB light-fly rankings and will qualify for Rio if he wins on a unanimous or split decision. Conlan is in third spot in the bantam rankings.
Barnes has won six from six - five on unanimous decisions and one on a 4th-round TKO - in the WSB so far this season and has made weight for each fight and boxed 29 rounds since January 17.