Lindberg faces fierce battle as Irish four eye quarter-finals

BILLY WALSH will be looking for more of the same from Ryan Lindberg and Willie McLoughlin at the European Championships in Liverpool today when Ireland will have four boxers fighting for places in the quarter-finals.

The Irish coach stopped short of saying they were sensational, but Walsh lavished praise on both Lindberg and McLaughlin following top drawer performances that saw Lindberg outfox and outbox teak tough Turk, Abdullahd Pursion, for a 9-4 decision.

That victory earned him the doubtful privilege of touching gloves with current European silver medallist at bantamweight, Samir Mammadov (Azerbaijan).

“Ryan is certainly up against it,” Walsh admitted. “We know Mammadov. He achieved Olympic qualification at the world championships in Chicago this time last year and may have won a medal there. But, in Ryan’s favour is the fact that he is in tremendous form and is certainly not going to be overawed by this assignment. I would be confident that he can win.”

There is a huge Donegal contingent in Liverpool to support Willie McLoughlin and they certainly got value for money on Thursday night when he dug deep to beat the Spaniard Hillario Jiminez 14-5. Again the Illies welterweight is in against a boxer who will be familiar to the Irish backroom team. Jack Culcay-Keth from Germany won a medal at the world championships in Chicago this time last year en route to Olympic qualification.

“He’s not bad,” admitted Walsh. “On paper he obviously is the more experienced of the two but I have to hold my hand up and say that Willie (McLoughlin) is the most improved boxer around. He was the star of the show at our training camp in Sheffield, where he sparred with the top boxers from England and Sweden and he showed us last night that he has brought that form to Liverpool.

“He loves a fight and the German, too, likes to mix it, so this is going to be one contest worth seeing.”

There will be four Irish boxers in action today. Flyweight Conor Ahern will face a familiar figure in 5’10” Swede, Solomo N’Tve. They met at the Olympic qualifier in Athens where Ahern got a bad cut over his eye in a clash of headsbut went on to win the fight handsomely.

“It’s not going to be a pretty fight,” Walsh predicted. “This Swede is awkward, untidy and it will not be nice to watch. Conor sparred him again at the training camp in Sheffield last week and it was pretty untidy stuff but I think we know enough about him to be able to deal with the situation.”

Ross Hickey from the Grangecon club in Wicklow had some close encounters with Eric Donovan before securing his place as the No 1 lightweight but when they touched gloves in the box-off for this tournament, Hickey was streets ahead.

“I think a lot of that is down to confidence,” Billy Walsh said. “He now believes in himself and showed that.”

He faces a very experienced opponent today in Kluchko Oleksandr (Ukraine) who won a gold medal at the Athens qualifier and went on to box in the Olympic Games.

“Oleksandr is very experienced but Ross is improving all the time. Ross is well capable of mixing it with the best at this level and I would expect a big performance from him.”

The only danger to David Oliver Joyce would come in the form of a hometown decision when the St Michael’s featherweight comes up against Joe Murray tomorrow afternoon. Joyce was unlucky not to qualify for the Olympics but Murray qualified and went on to represent Great Britain in Beijing. “Murray is very tall so David Oliver is going to have to close him down, work close in, keep his hands high and then hope the Englishman does not get any favouritism from the judges,” Billy Walsh said.

Darren O’Neill makes his long overdue return to the ring tomorrow evening when he meets Grishunis Nikolajs from Latvia for a place in the quarter finals. The Latvian beat Gzim Tahir (Austria) 10-1 in his opening contest yesterday afternoon and gave quite a performance.

“He is handy,” Billy Walsh said. “Like Darren, he is a southpaw, so it will be an interesting battle. The Latvian has a contest under his belt now so that will be to his advantage.”

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