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Irish trio progress at World Championships

However, Paddy Barnes and Ken Egan both suffered surprising reversals at the World Amateur Boxing Championships today.

Darren O'Neill, who qualified for the last 16 with a 15-13 win this morning.
Darren O'Neill, who qualified for the last 16 with a 15-13 win this morning.
Image: Inpho

Updated: 19.10

DARREN O’NEILL, David Oliver Joyce and John Joe Nevin all booked their places in the last 16 of the World Amateur Boxing Championships with wins in Baku, Azerbaijan today.

The trio are now just one fight away from qualifying for London 2012 and are due back in the ring tomorrow for what amounts to an Olympic box-off.

Tuesday set to be a busy day for Team Ireland with Joe Ward, Roy Sheehan, Michael Conlan and Con Sheehan also looking to progress to their respective quarter-finals.

Con Sheehan is the only one of the seven remaining Irish fighters who cannot seal his Olympic spot with a win tomorrow. Only the four semi-finalists in the super-heavyweight division qualify automatically for next summer’s games.

It hasn’t all been good news for the Irish however as Olympic medallists Kenny Egan and Paddy Barnes were both dumped out of the competition in surprising reversals.

Earlier today in the middleweight division, O’Neill beat Egyptian fighter Mohammad Hikal by 15-13 in a thrilling encounter. Next up for the Kilkenny southpaw is Mladen Manev of Bulgaria, an opponent who O’Neill beat 6-0 when they met at last year’s European Championships in Moscow.

Joyce’s contest against Afghan lightweight Mohammad Khaiber turned out to be a relatively more comfortable affair despite a nervy start from the Athy man. The fighters shared the opening round with five points apiece before Joyce took control in the second and ultimately won 26-13.

Joyce is back in action tomorrow evening against Jai Bhagwan of India.

In the bantamweight division, Nevin saw off another Indian opponent, outscoring Akhil Kumar in all three rounds en route to a 21-14 win.

However, Ireland’s Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Barnes was sensationally beaten earlier today.The Belfast man was stunned this morning by the Philippines’ Mark Barriga on a scoreline of 20-12.

At the end of round one, the Filipino was in front 6-4 and had stretched his lead to 13-8 after the second. After a third round in which Barnes chased the points, he was caught with a couple of combinations and ultimately well beaten.

Speaking to RTÉ, Barnes admitted he felt ring rusty but refused to use that as an excuse.

And the Ireland squad suffered another unexpected blow this evening when team captain Ken Egan retired when trailing Jose Angel Larduet Gomez of Cuba by 30-12 in the third round of their heavyweight contest.

Egan, whose Beijing silver came in the light-heavyweight division, made the step up in weight earlier this year in order to avoid a clash with Joe Ward. After the defeat, he admitted that he has not quite got the measure of his bigger opponents yet.

“It is taking time to adapt,” Egan told Paul McDermott. “I’ve only had a few fights at heavyweight in Ireland, so I haven’t really tested the class yet.”

But I know I’m good enough to be up at this weight, I just have to build myself into it a little bit more. I’m not a full-blown heavyweight yet.

Barnes and Egan will both have one last chance to book their Olympic place at the final qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey next April.

– Additional reporting by Niall Kelly

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