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Dublin: 18 °C Saturday 20 July, 2019
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Baku both good and bad for Ireland

After a mixed week at the World Championships, Gavin Grace takes a look at what comes next for Ireland’s Olympic hopefuls.

The Ireland team ahead of their departure for Baku.
The Ireland team ahead of their departure for Baku.
Image: INPHO/Cathal Noonan

IF THE IRISH team were to be given a school report card for this week’s World Championships, I think the grade would be somewhere near a B-.

There were some high points (John Joe Nevin’s bronze medal), some pleasant surprises (Olympic qualification for Darren O’Neill and Michael Conlon) but also some disappointments (close losses for Joe Ward and David Oliver Joyce) and even the odd disaster (Paddy Barnes and Kenny Egan).

Billy Walsh’s stated target of three men into the Olympics and one medal has been met, but there is a sense that Ireland could have done more on both fronts.

We’ve finished 10th worldwide, in terms of Olympic qualifiers, which is commendable and of course, for those that did not get through there is one more chance, a qualifying tournament in Istanbul in April.

Criteria for reaching the Olympics are complicated, but in essence there will be at least 78 Europeans in the 10 weight classes.

At a guess, this will mean eight Europeans in the eight divisions from light-flyweight to light heavyweight and about 6 in heavyweight and super heavyweight where there are fewer competitors.  This has to be confirmed, but if true it is good news for our 49kg and 69kg representatives (Paddy Barnes and Roy Sheehan, in all likelihood) and bad news for our man at 64kg where only two spots will be on offer – that’s the division of European Champion Ray Moylette.

London calling

It also opens up the possibility of Joe Ward and Kenny Egan renewing their rivalry in the light heavyweight (81kg) division at next year’s National Championships.

Egan was outclassed by a Cuban at heavyweight this week (91kg), and given that he has only lost to one Irishman at his preferred division in the last decade, you’d have to think a drop-down in weight is possible.  That becomes an even bigger temptation when you see there are likely to be only two remaining spots for Europeans at 91kg, and 6 at the lighter division.

All our boxers have to earn the right to represent Ireland early next year in the Nationals – though they are over four months away, it already seems clear where the most intriguing battleground will lie.

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It seems that Floyd Mayweather’s next contest could be his biggest in some time, against Briton Amir Khan.  Negotiations between both men’s camps are said to have begun, but details are scant.

The fight’s most likely date remains as the last three months of 2012, as Khan is preparing to fight Lamont Peterson in December and has said he wants a tune-up fight at welterweight before taking on the bigger Mayweather.  

Floyd Mayweather may also be the only fighter in the world who might wait that long, as his recent relative inactivity has shown.

Meanwhile, Khan may also be set to bring his fights back to SKY Sports, with negotiations ongoing for the Bolton native to fight on the network for the first time since his falling out with them prior to fighting Paul McCloskey.

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Wladimir Klitschko is to return to the ring in Decmber.  Following July’s victory over David Haye, the World Heavyweight Champion will face another blown-up cruiserweight in the guise of Jean-Marc Mormeck in Dusseldorf on 10 December.

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Detroit’s finest, Tommy ‘The Hit Man’ Hearns leads the 2012 International Boxing Hall of Fame ballot, announced this week.  Hearns was a leading welterweight and middleweight in the 1970s and 1980s and is best known for his fights with Sugar Ray Leonard and Marvellous Marvin Hagler.  Other notable potential inductees include trainer Freddie Roach, ‘Prince’ Nasem Hamed (who lost a vote last year) and a man who has never fought professionally, announcer Michael Buffer.

This Week in Boxing History

Tomorrow marks the 18th anniversary of what might just be the last ‘huge’ fight to take place in Britain.  A pair of World Titlists, Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank, fought before 42,000 fans at Old Trafford and 16.3 million ITV viewers.  It was their second time to clash – Eubank had won their first fight three years previously, and with genuine animosity between both men, their second contest was bound to thrill.

‘Judgement Day’, as it was billed, failed in just one aspect – it’s verdict.  After 12 gruelling rounds, the three ringside judges scored the contest as a draw.  It seemed like the men would fight each other once more, but it never happened.

There was one big loser on the night, however.  When agreeing to fight once more, Benn and Eubank signed contracts which stipulated that both the winner and loser would fall under the promotional umbrella of Don King and then fight his man, Michael Nunn.  King never contemplated the draw however, and neither man was subsequently bound to join him.

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Gavin Grace

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