Ward left to fly flag for Ireland after tough day
After a day of sharply contrasting fortunes for the Irish boxers at the World Championship in Hamburg, team captain Joe Ward was predictably the last and only man left standing.
Ward revived Irish spirits when he outclassed Georgian light heavyweight Iago Kiziria to secure a place in the quarter-finals with a unanimous 5-0 win.
Such was his complete mastery of the contest that the German judge awarded him the fight on a 30-24 score - which in boxing terms represents a complete rout.
The treble European title-holder, who has previously won silver and bronze medals at World Elite level, meets Mikhail Dauhaliavets from Belarus - who he has previously beaten - in the quarter-final. Victory tonight would guarantee Ward at least a bronze.
But the three-time Cuban World champion and Rio Olympic gold medallist Julio La Cruz - Ward's likely opponent if he reaches the last four - looked a class apart in the afternoon session.
Ward, though, wants to concentrate on one fight at a time.
"It is a bit difficult waiting around for the fight but I adopted really well. I have been here before in these situations and I know what it takes to win and do the job and that's what I did.
"My opponent was tough; he works really hard. Overall I was in control. My movement was very good and my punching was very good. It (the result) was never in doubt.
"I didn't watch any of the other fights in my division. I just focused on getting my performance right and I will do the same for the quarter-final," said Ward.
Earlier there was no joy for Ireland's two other remaining boxers, Brendan Irvine and Dean Gardiner.
A distraught Irvine was too upset to speak after his elimination on a unanimous 5-0 decision against impressive Korean bantamweight Inkyu Kim.
Beaten by the eventual gold medallist in a preliminary round at the Rio Olympics last summer, Irvine bounced back when he won a bronze medal in the 56kg division at the European Championships earlier this year which secured him a place as sixth seed at the world event.
But Irvine, while brave and resilient, found the Korean southpaw a real handful. His fate was probably already sealed when he got caught with a near perfect right as he tried to get off the ropes which put him on the canvass with less than a minute remaining in a thrilling contest.
He survived the count and countered before the finish but the judges were swayed by Kim's busier style. He scored regularly with his jab and he punished Irvine with body shots in the second, though Irvine responded in fashion.
However, the fact that this was the Irishman's first fight at the championships told and the elusive Kim avoided some of his best shots. While one judge awarded him one round, it was a comfortable win for Kim. The four other ring-side officials scored the contest 30-27 in favour of Kim.
Meanwhile, Dean Gardiner's defeat in the last 16 of the super heavyweight division means that Ireland's wait for championship silverware in the heavier weight divisions continues.
Not since Dublin blacksmith Gearóid Ó Colmain won the European heavyweight title in 1947 when the event was held in the National Stadium has an Irish boxer finished on the podium in either the 91kg or super heavyweight class.
Gardiner fashioned a brave performance against Christian Salcedo but went down on a split 2-3 decision.
"I did what I could in the ring, the rest was up to the judges and unfortunately they didn't pick me and there is nothing I can do about that. I felt maybe I had done enough to nick it," suggested Gardiner, who lost 27-30; 28-29; 28-29; 29-28; 28-29.
"This was my first World Championship. The experience was great. This is where I belong - but I don't know what is in store for me now," said Gardiner.