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Joe Ward qualifies for Rio Olympics after advancing to World Championship final

He becomes the second Irishman to go through to the finals.

Image: Francis Myers/INPHO

Ciarán Gallagher reports from Doha

IRELAND HAVE TWO fighters through to the finals of the World Championships for the first time in history after light-heavyweight Joe Ward’s semi-final victory, which also secures his place at the Rio Olympics next year.

The Moate native claimed a 3-0 unanimous decision semi-final victory over Ishod Rasulov of Uzbekistan at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena in Doha, which secures at least a silver medal.

The 21-year-old qualifies for the Olympics as both 81kg finalists are awarded a place at the Rio Games.

Ward will fight two-time world champ Julio la Cruz in the final on Thursday, the Cuban who defeated the Irishman in the 2013 World semi-final.

“It’s a massive win after the ups and downs I had in my career, missing out on London [2012 Olympic Games], then I tried to go the APB route, I did okay at that but got pipped at the post a few times,” said Ward immediately after his win.

“A lot of people wrote me off in a way, but I knew myself I’d stick with it. Eddie Bolger [coach] stuck with me, my family at home, my kids and my girlfriend motivated me to keep going and I got what I wanted. That’s my dream, to go to an Olympic Games and I’ve got a World silver medal,” added Ward, who followed the lead of Michael Conlan who booked his final spot with a win over Dzmitry Asanau of Belarus on Sunday night, with the pair becoming the second and third Irishmen to reach senior World deciders following Jason Quigley’s 2013 silver-medal campaign.

Conlan competes in his final on Wednesday night, with the Belfast bantamweight taking on Uzbek Murodjon Akhmadaliev, and the Irish captain is a heavy favourite to claim Ireland’s first ever gold at the men’s tournament.

Portlaoise middleweight Michael O’Reilly will also definitely qualify for the Olympics if he wins a third-place box-off against Hosam Abdin of Egypt on Wednesday night.

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Ciarán Gallagher

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