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Dublin: 10 °C Friday 18 October, 2019
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Busy boxers seek to increase Ireland's medal haul

As Irish boxing prepares for a big month, Gavin Grace rounds-up all the latest news.

Jack Morrissey looks on after losing in the Heavyweight semi-finals of the European Youth Championships.
Jack Morrissey looks on after losing in the Heavyweight semi-finals of the European Youth Championships.
Image: ©INPHO/James Crombie

IT TOOK A while, and some arguing, but at long last officials here have decided that Ireland will send the strongest possible team to next month’s World Championships.

The importance of these games has already been outlined on this site, so I won’t repeat that, but since what may be the most important event in Irish boxing in 2011 occurred during my brief absence, I feel it must be addressed.

The IABA’s decision to hold a box-off to select the team for Baku was prudent in that it allowed for those in form to go forward.  However, its policy to use this box-off as the only selection method was absurd.

Eventually sense prevailed, and while consternation was caused, the result of this impasse is that Ireland will now send a strong team to the World Championships and, hopefully, next year’s Olympic Games also.

One place has yet to be filled – national champion Ross Hickey will face European supremo Ray Moylette on Friday to see who competes in the 64kg category – but with two Olympic medallists, a World Championship bronze medallist and a host of medal-winning experience at European level, there’s no reason that Irish eyes won’t be smiling in six or so weeks’ time.

Fans here will get to see coverage of the Championships.  RTE are advertising it as part of their promos for the upcoming season, though full details of their coverage have yet to be revealed.

Meanwhile, as the European Youth Championships come to a close at CityWest in Dublin today, our boxers have continued their medal rushes of recent times.

Michael O’Reilly of Portlaoise and Mayo’s Gary Sweeney will both contest their respective finals on Saturday afternoon (the bouts can be watched on www.iaba.ie from 2:30) while three other Irishmen have already secured bronze medals.

Previously, Ireland had won 11 medals at the European Youth Championships since they were first held in Dublin in 1970.

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There’s been some disappointment this week for Willie Casey.  The Limerick man has been out of action since his first round knockout defeat to Guillermo Rigondeaux in March, and was due to return to the ring in his native city next weekend.  However, that show has now been called off due to ‘issues with the venue’, according to promoter Gary Hyde.

Casey’s comeback will go ahead after a short delay however.  He’s been added to the undercard of Tyson Fury’s fight in Belfast on 17 September. There’s no change to his planned opponent, Daniel Kodjo Sassou.

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In a surprising move that has been announced this week, British Super-Middleweight Champion George Groves has signed a three-year deal which sees him join with Frank Warren’s stable of fighters.

It was widely known that Groves was a free-agent, following his win over James DeGale in May, but he had been expected to join Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom stable. The real surprise in opting for Warren is that it will see Groves’ trainer/mentor Adam Booth work with a man who once described him as “the most difficult person he had ever worked with.”

Warren is also quoted as saying that a rematch against DeGale “will definitely happen again.”

In light of this, attention now turns to David Haye.  The heavyweight has yet to make an announcement about his future, following his loss to Wladimir Klitschko in July, but had previously vowed to retire by October.  Groves was the leading fighter in his Hayemaker stable, so questions are now being asked as to whether his departure will see Haye leave the sport altogether.

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This week in boxing history

This week marks the third anniversary of one of the most successful periods for Irish boxing.

Prior to the Beijing Olympics, it had been 16 years since an Irish boxer medalled at the biggest event of all, but that was rectified in 2008 when the late Darren Sutherland, Paddy Barnes and Kenny Egan all stopped onto the rostrum.

Egan came closest to gold by cruising into his final (though many felt Sutherland should have also boxed for gold, losing to Brit James DeGale in the semi-final), but on Sunday 24 August he was undone by home favourite Zhang Xiaoping in what many viewed as an unfair decision.

Egan will be hoping to go one better next summer, as we have already seen.  In twelve months time we will know whether he, and Ireland’s other boxers, have been successful.

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Gavin Grace

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