Wednesday 17 January 2018

Fresh blow for Irish boxing as Zaur Antia considering move to Canada

Team Ireland coach Zaur Antia is wanted by Canada
Team Ireland coach Zaur Antia is wanted by Canada
Antia, rumoured to have been approached by the Canadian federation. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Vincent Hogan

Vincent Hogan

Zaur Antia is wanted by Canada as Ireland's high performance boxing programme threatens to go into meltdown.

The wily Georgian, interim head of the programme for these Olympics, is one of the most respected technical coaches in world boxing and has attracted many offers to work elsewhere since moving to Ireland in 2003.

After an intensely stressful week for the Irish boxers in Rio, he is said to be considering his options, with spirits in the camp remaining fragile after shock defeats for Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward preceded by the failed drug test of Michael O'Reilly.

Yesterday's victory for Stephen Donnelly offered a welcome respite after the torrent of bad news stories, but Antia is said to have been left deeply frustrated by the O'Reilly situation particularly and the farcical way in which the middleweight's doping violation was communicated to him.

Ireland still have two medal favourites - Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor - yet to enter the Olympic ring, but there has been mounting criticism of the lack of leadership in the high performance camp since Billy Walsh's departure for the US last October.

Walsh is being lauded for his work with the Americans, who have already won a medal here - they have achieved six victories from seven bouts.

As many as six of the eight-strong Irish team that travelled to Rio could now be lost to the high performance unit through either a switch to the professional ranks, retirement or - in O'Reilly's case - the likelihood of having to serve a two-year ban.

And Antia, rumoured to have been approached by the Canadian federation here, could be lost with them if he decides that there are better opportunities abroad than trying to rehabilitate a programme that has become a virtual medal factory over the last 13 years.

A couple of medal wins here could still transform the energy within the camp, but confidence is considerably lower than it was prior to the Games.

If Antia is lost to Irish boxing, the focus will undoubtedly return to the IABA, who were heavily criticised last year for their failure to keep Walsh.

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Irish Independent

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