Updated at 20.00
Ciarán Gallagher reports from Doha
JOE WARD HAS increased Team Ireland’s medal haul to three at the World Championships after he followed the quarter-final success of Michael Conlan and Michael O’Reilly earlier on Saturday.
There was disappointment for Brendan Irvine, who lost his last-eight clash, but Ireland have claimed a record haul, having never previously won three medals at the competition, with the trio guaranteed at least bronze ahead of their semi-finals.
Moate light-heavyweight Ward defeated Mikhail Baudhaliavets of Belarus on a 3-0 unanimous decision scoreline in a rematch of their European Championships quarter-final, which the Irishman also won en route to a gold medal.
The win means Ward, a 2013 bronze medallist , now has two World medals of his own and he is one win away from Olympic qualification.
“I feel grand,” said Ward after the fight. “I knew it was going to be hard because I boxed him in the European Championships and I knew he was a tough guy.
“Now that I have two fights under my belt I feel a lot better. I’m nine minutes away from the Olympic Games,” said Ward, who will meet Elshod Rasulov of Uzbekistan in the last four on Monday, while O’Reilly and Conlan will compete again on Sunday.
It had looked like O’Reilly might secure Olympic qualification early, but it now seems as though he will have to reach the middleweight final or win a third-place box-off should he lose his semi-final. However, if he wins his last-four fight, he will definitely qualify for Rio.
O’Reilly boxed fantastically in a close fight against reigning world middleweight champion Zhanubek Alimhanuly of Kazakhstan, winning via split-decision to book his last-four spot. The judges scored the first round against him, but the 22-year-old bounced back to claim the final two rounds to pick up the split win — 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.
“I knew what I had to do – play a game of cat and mouse and make him feint, make him throw first and that’s what he kept doing. I clipped him every time with the left hook when he came in. I’m over the moon and delighted,” said O’Reilly, who clashes with Uzbek prodigy Bektemir Melikuziev in the last four on Sunday.
Team captain Conlan was back to his best in his semi-final win over European Games bronze medallist Tayfur Aliyev of Azerbaijan after looking slightly rusty in his opening bout on Thursday night. The Belfast bantamweight became the first Irishman ever to claim World, Olympic, European and Commonwealth medals with his dominant 3-0 points win.
“It was a good fight today, quite handy and I thought it was going to be a lot tougher,” said Conlan, who meets Dzmitry Asanau of Belarus in the last four on Sunday. “We just had the right tactics today and it was an easy enough fight. I felt in control and I wasn’t worried at all in there.”
There was disappointment for Irvine, however, as he lost a 3-0 unanimous decision to Joahnys Argilagos — 30-27, 30-27, 29-28.
“It was a tough fight from the first bell and I knew it was going to be all-action because obviously he’s a Cuban and he was world champion at one stage,” said Irvine. “I fought him a while ago and he knew I was going to be coming to bring it, but unfortunately I didn’t have the luck today.”
– First published at 16.30