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Billy Walsh sets USA on their way as all three of his team are fancied to qualify for Rio

Lightweight Mikaela Mayer has emerged as a credible Olympic rival to Katie Taylor, while old foe Adriana Araujo will represent the host country.

Billy Walsh departed Ireland for his new role with USA Boxing last October.
Billy Walsh departed Ireland for his new role with USA Boxing last October.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

BILLY WALSH MAY have three more Olympians under his watch by the end of the week as all of his USA women’s squad have reached the last-four stage of the American Olympic qualifier in Buenos Aires.

The Wexford man is working the corner for the USA’s women for the first time at a major continental tournament since taking up his post last October, with two of his three fighters now just one win away from booking a place at Rio 2016.

Walsh left his role as head coach of Irish boxing in acrimonious circumstances after failing to agree a new deal with the IABA and has since taken up the task of maintaining the success of the USA Boxing’s women’s team.

The 52-year-old has not exactly had to work his Midas touch, however, as he has a particularly talented squad to work with, including reigning Olympic middleweight champion Claressa Shields (the No 1 seed at 75kg) and No 2 flyweight seed Virginia Fuchs, who has been in fantastic form as of late.

Both Shields and Fuchs will secure their Olympic places if they can win their respective semi-finals on Thursday and the US pair will be favourites to do so, but the fate of American lightweight Mikaela Mayer will be of particular interest to Irish boxing fans.

US Championships Boxing Mayer (left) came through a tough US selection process to reach the American Olympic qualifiers in Buenos Aires. Source: AP/Press Association Images

Mayer has emerged as a credible rival to Ireland’s Olympic champ Katie Taylor after the LA native came through a highly-competitive US selection tournament to compete in Buenos Aires.

The 25-year-old American has already managed to see off Canada’s Pan-American Games champion and pre-tournament lightweight favourite Caroline Veyre, and she will face Puerto Rico’s Kiria Tapia in Thursday’s semi-finals.

Mayer must emerge as the outright winner of the 60kg category if she is to book her place in Rio, however, as Brazil have opted to allocate one of their ‘host country’ qualification spots to their lightweight, Adriana Araujo.

Taylor previously defeated Araujo in 2010 en route to her third world title before the Brazilian went on to claim bronze at London 2012 after losing out to Taylor’s Russian nemesis Sofya Ochigava at the semi-final stage.

All eyes on Rio as Ireland boxing coach lays out plan for Olympic medals

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Ciarán Gallagher

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