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Carly McNaul secures at least bronze but scales deny 'Irish derby' in semi

Boxing for Sierra Leone in the same division, McNaul’s fellow Irish champ Sara Haghighat-joo was unable to compete in her quarter-final.

Carly McNaul (L) celebrating her victory in the previous round.
Carly McNaul (L) celebrating her victory in the previous round.
Image: PA

CARLY MCNAUL HAS guaranteed a first boxing medal for the Northern Irish team at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

The seasoned McNaul, 33, was altogether a class above Sri Lanka’s Keshani Hansika, 31, in their 50kg (light-flyweight) quarter-final bout, winning the bout 3-0 on all five judges’ scorecards.

Belfast’s ‘Wrecking Ball’ is now a two-time Commonwealth medalist having won silver at the 2018 Games in Gold Coast, Australia.

McNaul is set to face Uganda’s Teddy Nakimuli in a semi-final on Saturday at 2:30pm. Nakimuli received a bye after her quarter-final opponent, the Canadian-born Sara Haghighat-joo who is representing Sierra Leone, weighed in a tenth of a kilogram (0.2lbs) over the 50kg limit.

Haghighat-joo has claimed that there was a discrepancy between the test scales and the official scales, saying: “the test scales said I was 50.00[kg] bang on, therefore I proceeded to the official scales where it then docked me [0].1 over.”

The 28-year-old said that “nobody would come back to the test scales to verify this” and that “in amateur boxing, once you’re on the official scales, there’s no going back.” Haghighat-joo described the situation as “absolute bullshit” and implored organisers to “get their shit together.”

While her elimination on the scales is great news for Uganda’s Nakimuli — who, like McNaul, is now guaranteed at least a bronze medal — it’s partly disappointing for Irish boxing fans who will be denied what would ostensibly have been an Irish derby between McNaul and Haghighat-joo in the semi-final.

Though the latter is now boxing for Sierra Leone, Haghighat-joo is also the reigning Irish bantamweight champion (as well as a three-time former national champion in her home country of Canada).

The 28-year-old North Vancouver native currently boxes out of St Brigid’s BC in Edenderry, Co. Offaly, and has won back-to-back senior titles in Ireland since marrying a Galway man and relocating to this country several years ago. She edged out the excellent young Dubliner Niamh Fay live on TG4 in the most recent 54kg decider last October.

Unable to box for Canada while living and training in Ireland, Haghighat-joo has previously expressed her wish to represent her country of residence. However, she will instead attempt to reach the Paris Olympics for Sierra Leone while training in Edenderry under esteemed Offaly coach Liam ‘Morley’ Brereton, who has previously worked with the West African country’s national team.

sara-hagighat-jo-celebrates-winning Sara Haghighat-joo celebrating her Irish senior semi-final win over Emma Flannery at the National Stadium last September. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Earlier today, Antrim BC’s Nicole Clyde, 19, fell short of a medal when she was stopped in the third round by India’s two-time Youth world champion Nitu Ghanghas, two years Clyde’s senior, in their 48kg quarter-final.

Team NI have two more boxers in medal action this evening: At 7pm, Tyrone’s Jude Gallagher, one of the stars of the tournament so far who blitzed Brummie home favourite Niall Farrell of England in his last-16 outing, takes on Pakistan’s Ilyas Hussain in their 57kg quarter.

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The 20-year-old Gallagher has already turned the head of professional boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, who made his admiration for the Eric Donovan-trained Newtownstewart man public yesterday.

An hour later, comeback kid Éireann Nugent, 30, will make her Commonwealth Games debut in a 70kg quarter-final bout with England’s Jodie Wilkinson.

Belfast’s Nugent returned to the ring this year following an 11-year absence and, after an assessment, earned selection for the travelling party to Birmingham.

Northern Ireland will also have several more boxers competing for medals in the coming days, including Olympic bronze medalist Aidan Walsh of Belfast and world champion Amy Broadhurst of Dundalk, the latter of whom qualifies to represent Team NI through her father, Tony.

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