Monday, August 11, 2008

Boxing: Hopes of a medal?

Excerpts from Ian O'Riordan in the Irish Times

It's looking increasingly likely that Ireland will win a medal of some colour in boxing says Ian O'Riordan in the Irish Times.

"Johnny Joyce coolly took apart Gyula Kate of Hungary, 24 hours after Kenny Egan had done the same to Julius Jackson of the Virgin Islands.

"With Paddy Barnes and Darren Sutherland getting byes into the second round, four of the five Irish boxers are two wins from a medal.

"Joyce was not meant to beat Kate; he'd lost their last three fight at light-welter, including a 32-17 beating at last year's World Championships, but Joyce turned the tables this time, outsmarting Kate to win 9-5 and book his place in Thursday's second round.

"I'd been drawn against him so many times before in the first round, I just knew God would be on my side this time," said Joyce.

"Drawing him again, I knew God was testing me. This time, I brought my performance with me. I could have boxed better, but there were my tactics, to beat him, round by round.

"He's been my bogeyman . . . My goal here was to bring my fight to him, and as the fight went on, I got more and more confident. He's a big banger, but I let him chase me, that was the plan."

At 20, Joyce is six years younger than Kate but looked the more mature, his fight-retreat-cover tactic superbly effective. Team coach Billy Walsh had warned him this was his only way to win.

"I said to Johnny yesterday that if this guy beats you again he's going to bring you home and put you on the mantelpiece," said Walsh. "But he got everything right today."

In the vastness of the Workers' Arena the Irish support was typically vocal. Joyce could tell by the shouting he was in front, even if Walsh had tried to keep him calm.

"I know now, as the tournament goes on, the better I'll get. Especially after beating him, the way I did," said Joyce, who will next face 24-year-old Felix Diaz of the Dominican Republic, ranked ninth in Athens four years ago.

For Egan, Saturday's 22-2 victory over Jackson at light heavy had medal potential written all over it. He's also out again on Thursday against Bahram Muzaffer of Turkey - who claims he is "the best fighter in the division".

"Well, he's never fought Kenny before," said Walsh.

Egan was naturally buoyant, spurred on, he admitted, by the thought of his family watching from the stands. "They all must have got tickets at the last minute . . . my father, two brothers, and a lot of their mates. It's a great stadium, and the atmosphere is savage, but once you're in there, all you see is your opponent, and four ropes.

"That's the way you have to think. It's the Olympics, sure. But it's just another fight. It's all about the win, the 'W' after your name."

Tomorrow, John Joe Nevin hopes to become the fifth Irish boxer to make the last 16; he faces Abdelhalim Ourradi of Algeria at bantam. No one is getting carried away, but after such a start, there has to be just a whisper of a medal.

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