Buckley and Nevin seal Ireland's first medals in Minsk with five more boxers on brink of joining them

The 22-year-old has reached the light-flyweight semi-finals in Minsk.

Regan Buckley celebrates a guaranteed medal in Minsk.
Regan Buckley celebrates a guaranteed medal in Minsk.
Image: Team Ireland

Updated Jun 25th 2019, 7:30 PM

PORTLAOISE MIDDLEWEIGHT MICHAEL Nevin has doubled Ireland’s medal tally at the 2019 European Games, with at least two boxers now guaranteed to take home bronze at worst from Minsk.

In a sensational exhibition of boxing, the stylish middleweight edged Turkey’s Guler Serhat, a former World Series of Boxing (WSB) competitor, on a 4-1 split to reach the semi-finals at 75kg.

It’s a first major international medal at Senior Elite level for Nevin, who has for years been touted as one of the most prodigiously gifted boxers in the country.

The 21-year-old is a three-time European champion at underage level, winning gold as a Schoolboy, Junior and Youth as well as World Championships bronze in the latter age category.

However, he was selected for the Irish squad in the absence of Senior Elite champion Gabriel Dossen, who missed out through injury.

Having more than taken advantage of his stroke of luck — or Dossen’s misfortune, depending on which way you look at it — Nevin is now two fights away from stamping his mark on the continent as an adult.

D97FqrQXYAAaKZv Michael Nevin has sealed Ireland's second medal in Minsk.

“I’m feeling good,” said Nevin. “I’m happy with the performance. Onto the next one, now. He was a good, strong opponent.

I have a bronze medal now so it’s time to change the colour.

Less than an hour before Nevin’s success, Bray light-flyweight Regan Buckley secured Ireland’s first medal at this year’s Games when he reached the last four at 49kg.

Buckley beat Spain’s Martin Molina, also a WSB veteran, on a 4-1 split decision to guarantee himself at least bronze in Minsk.

The 22-year-old St Teresa’s BC man was adjudged to have been the winner by judges from Russia, Cuba, Korea and Poland, with a Bosnian judge seeing the contest the other way.

“I’m over the moon, to be honest with ya,” Buckley said. “It was a hard-fought fight — the Spanish guy came forward an awful lot and he was really compact, he threw a lot of punches so I had to deal with him from the outside. There were times when I had to mix it up with him as well.

“But we did what we had to to get the win. It was a very good contest. First round, I was controlling the distance very well, I was catching him on the counter. Second round, I may have gotten into it a bit too much with him on the inside. And then the coaches told me in the third round to bring it back out to a boxing match. I was working off the jab in the last round and I was catching him with some nice shots, so I think that’s what got me the fight.

I’m over the moon. I’ve two days ’til the next bout. It’s straight into recovery and looking onto the next one. No time to dwell on it.

Buckley won his first Irish Senior Elite title in February, beating Monkstown’s Sean Mari in a high-octane final at Dublin’s National Stadium.

Regan Buckley celebrates Buckley celebrating his Irish Senior Elite title win in February. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

A former Intermediate champion and Elite runner-up (Buckley lost the 2016 Senior final to Monaghan man Stevie McKenna, now 2-0 as a professional in California), Buckley ditched the vest and turned pro himself in 2017.

He too amassed a 2-0 record in the paid ranks, the second of his victories impressive then and even more so in hindsight: the Wicklow youngster stepped up in both weight and level of opposition to inflict a first defeat upon Carl ‘The Cobra’ McDonald, who is now the BUI Irish super-bantamweight champion.

However, frustrations with the business side of the professional game eventually led to Buckley returning to the amateurs (per Irish Amateur Boxing Association rules since 2017, combatants with five or fewer pro fights on their record can revert to the unpaid ranks).

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For Buckley, that move has seemingly paid off if not in a financial sense: he is now a legitimate Olympic prospect, and his stock will rise further if he can go one or two steps better than his Minsk bronze.

Earlier on Tuesday, another medal hope in Belfast’s James McGivern lost out to European champion and World Championships bronze medalist Hovhannes Bachkov of Armenia on a unanimous decision at 64kg.

There was better news for middleweight Aoife O’Rourke, however. The Roscommon woman earned a huge victory over Viktoryia Kebikava from host nation Belarus, getting the nod from four of five judges.

O’Rourke is among five other Irish boxers — along with world champion Kellie Harrington, Grainne Walsh, Kurt Walker and Michaela Walsh — who will aim to join Buckley and Nevin on their respective podiums over the coming days.

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