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Saturday 4 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
INPHO/Cathal Noonan Joe Ward and Ray Moylette in Turkey
# Corner man
The good and bad of Ireland's Turkish delight
Two gold medals gets a promising weekend for Irish boxing underway.

My prediction last week that Ireland’s boxers were capable of achieving their goal of winning five European Championship medals proved wide of the mark, but yesterday’s events in Turkey cap what was still a fantastic week.

A pair of eight-point wins for Ray Moylette and Joe Ward over English and Russian opponents gave Ireland two golds from a European Championships for the first time since 1939, when the Games were held in Dublin, and brings to eight our total number of European Champions.

However, there were losers from this week; Paddy Barnes for one. The Belfast man could easily have retained his title but for a pre-tournament injury, which hopefully clears up soon. In the quarter-finals, three other Irish boxers were beaten, one win away from a medal – John Joe Nevin in particular can feel hard done by.

Perhaps, though, the biggest loser wasn’t in Turkey this week at all. It’s less than three years since Kenny Egan’s silver medal made him the toast of Ireland, but his loss to Ward in this year’s National Championships ended his long reign as an Irish champion. The Moate teenager’s latest success cements his spot as the number one light-heavyweight in the country. Egan will likely face Ward in a box-off in August, but even a win there may not be enough for him to usurp his opponent as the European Champion has surely earned a shot at September’s World Championships. A quarter-final appearance there would seal a spot in next year’s Olympics. If Ward (or for that matter Egan) does not change weight divisions by then, Egan’s Olympic dreams will be no more.

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Tipperary’s Matthew Macklin will hope to extend a successful week for Irish boxing tonight, but faces a very difficult assignment against Felix Sturm in their world title fight in Germany. Leverkusen’s Sturm will effectively be fighting in front of his home fans, and as many boxers from the British Isles have found in recent years, getting a decision in Germany can be extra-difficult.

Macklin also enters the fight on the back of some shaky form – had this fight come 18 months ago, he would have travelled with his confidence sky-high after momentous wins over Wayne Elcock and Amin Asikainen.   Since then, he has been fairly unimpressive – even though he has continued his winning streak. Sturm hasn’t lost in five years, and is a pragmatic boxer who often grinds out decision wins. Last time out, he defeated Roland ‘son of Tommy’ Hearns – his last notable win was against Sebastian Sylvester in 2008.

The hope is that Sturm is under-estimating Macklin, and that a sense of malaise has been built into his work.  Like many Germanss, he appears happy to take easier, better-paid fights at home and may view tonight in such a light. As for Macklin, the two-time European Champion is talking a big fight.

“When I’ve been underdog or gone in up against it, that’s when you’ve seen the best of me. The nerves make me perform better. They make me sharper. When I know I have to be at my best, I lift my game.”

He desperately needs to do just that tonight.

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Macklin’s title challenge will be shown on SKY Sports along with Kell Brook’s contest with Lovemore N’Dou from Sheffield. There are other cards of note tonight. At the National Stadium, Patrick Hyland will look to capture the lightly-regarded WBF Featherweight title against France’s Phillipe Frenois while in Craigavon, David Murphy promotes his first ever card – one that features Stephen Haughian and Eamon O’Kane.

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This Week In Boxing History

Showing how difficult things can be for a boxer ‘away’ from home, this week’s look-back through the annals chronicles one of the most controversial fights in history.  After 13 rounds of his fight with Roberto Duran at Madison Square Garden, Scot Ken Buchanan was behind on points but battling ably. However, after the end of that round, he was struck with what his trainer Gil Clancy claimed was a knee to the groin. Referee Johnny LoBianco deemed the blow legal, and stopped the fight there and then, awarding the victory to Duran.

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