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Ireland clinging to Olympic wildcard hopes for Joe Ward

Boxing coach Billy Walsh says that he won’t be holding his breath on Ward getting a place in London this summer.

Muzaffer, left, is declared the winner against Ireland's Joe Ward.
Muzaffer, left, is declared the winner against Ireland's Joe Ward.
Image: INPHO

IRISH BOXING COACH Billy Walsh will exhaust every possible avenue to try to get Joe Ward a place at the Olympic Games this summer.

Ward, the European light-heavyweight champion, saw his Olympic dream dashed at the men’s final qualifying event in Trabzon yesterday evening when he lost in controversial circumstances to Bahran Muzaffer of Turkey.

Incensed by the manner in which the final round was scored by the five ringside judges, the Irish team appealed the result but their attempts to have Ward reinstated were rejected late last night.

Speaking to Newstalk’s Oisin Langan this morning, Walsh said that they now intend to pursue a tripartite invitation for Ward, who is currently ranked third in the world at his weight. However the chances of success are slim, he conceded.

At the moment, Joe Ward is not going to the Olympic Games and that’s the bare facts of it. We’re doing everything and trying every avenue to turn that around but I wouldn’t hold my breath in anticipation of anything changing.

The AIBA has eight of these “wildcard” invitations to distribute to male boxers, one of which has been earmarked for a European at 81kg — Ward’s division. Competition for this final place is sure to be competitive and, despite Ward’s prowess in the ring, he could easily find himself overlooked.

The official guidelines issued to each National Organising Committee (NOC) state that the tripartite places are intended “to strengthen the principle of universal representation at the Games” by allowing smaller countries with few qualified representatives to send their best athletes. As a result, “invitation places can only be allocated to NOCs with an average of six or less athletes at the last two editions of the Olympic Games.”

It appears that Ward will only be offered a wildcard slot in the unlikely event that an invitation cannot be allocated to an eligible country, at which stage it would revert to the AIBA for redistribution. A final decision will be taken on the invitations between May and July.

Following yesterday’s defeats for Ward, Ross Hickey and Con Sheehan, Ireland still have four boxers in action in Trabzon this week.

Later today, Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes is in action against Istvan Ungvari of Hungary in the last 16 of the light-flyweight division while David Oliver Joyce comes up against Arthur Bril of Germany.

Controversy as Joe Ward crashes out of final Olympic qualifier

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Niall Kelly

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