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Harrington and Walsh win as Irish boxing team makes competitive return

Barnard Dunne’s Irish team are competing in Sofia in preparation for the summer’s final Olympic qualifiers.

Kellie Harrington celebrates winning on her return to competitive action in Bulgaria.
Kellie Harrington celebrates winning on her return to competitive action in Bulgaria.
Image: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

FORMER WORLD CHAMPION Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s BC) and two-time European medallist Michaela Walsh (Monkstown BC) earned wins in their first competitive bouts in over a year on a mixed day for Ireland’s Elite boxing team at the Strandja Memorial multi-nations tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Harrington’s clubmate George Bates and Smithfield’s Kiril Afanasev bowed out in the preliminary stages, with three more fighters due to dust off their gloves on Day 2 tomorrow.

Harrington, Ireland’s 60kg Tokyo Olympics hopeful, contended with ring rust after an injury- and pandemic-plagued couple of years but beat Poland’s Aneta Rygielska on a 5-0 unanimous decision. The Strandja results will not impact Olympic qualification but today’s win augurs well for the Dublin North Inner City native as she is set to meet Rygielska again in the last 16 of the final Olympic qualifiers, wherein victory in that bout alone would guarantee her place at this summer’s Games.

At 57kg, Walsh beat Mauritius’ Wildad Bertal on a 4-1 split to book her spot in the Strandja last 16. Walsh herself can almost guarantee Olympic qualification in June with a victory over France’s Mona Mestiaen in her opening bout, while a second win in London would fully book her spot in Japan.

michaela-walsh-celebrates-beating-widad-bertal Walsh celebrates her 4-1 nod. Source: Aleksandar Djorovic/INPHO

Bates (63kg), meanwhile, was beaten by Ukraine’s Aadkhuja Muydunkujaev on a unanimous verdict and Afanasev (91kg) lost out to Turkish heavyweight Mujahit Ilyas on a 4-1 split. The former will Azerbaijan’s Javid Chalabiyev in a straight shootout for Olympic qualification in June, while the latter will likely have to win two qualification bouts to seal his spot in Tokyo.

Strandja Memorial Tournament schedule for Irish boxers*

*Kellie Harrington and Michaela Walsh’s next bouts TBC

23 February

Last 16:

51kg: Niamh Earley (Ireland) v Wassila Likhardiri (France)

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81kg: Emmet Brennan (Ireland) v Stephan Hrekul (Ukraine)

75kg: Aoife O’Rourke (Ireland) v Dobromiro Georgieve (Bulgaria)

24 February

Last 16:

91+kg: Gytis Lisinskas (Ireland) v Singh Manjeet (India)

25 February

Quarter-Final:

52kg: Brendan Irvine (Ireland) v Bashkim Bejoku (Kosovo)

Irish squad

51kg Niamh Earley (Ryston BC)
52kg Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s BC)
57kg Michaela Walsh (Monkstown BC)
60kg Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s BC)
63kg George Bates (St Mary’s BC)
75kg Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea BC)
81kg Emmett Brennan (Dublin Docklands BC)
91kg Kirill Afanasev (Smithfield BC)
91+kg Gytis Lisinskas (Celtic Eagles BC)

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