Ward powers into final

JOE WARD (Moate) got his defence of his light heavyweight title off to a flying start at the Elite National finals at the National Stadium last night and immediately threw down the gauntlet to Kenny Egan, who he beat to claim it last year.

The 18-year-old European champion defeated fellow Westmeath man, Davy Joe Joyce (Ballinacargy) 17-4 in a semi-final that one felt he could have ended at any time but he held back on the big shots.

“I was very happy with the win,” he said. “I have not boxed since the world championships in Baku so I’m just a bit ring-rusty. I still have the big shots. You don’t lose that. You just have to develop more to get bigger and stronger.

“I’m looking forward to my next fight. The two lads are boxing tomorrow and I wish them best of luck. Whoever wins, I hope it’s a good final.

“I am very fit. I was doing most of the work tonight. I went in there tonight to perform. I always try to perform to my ability. I can control nothing else but my performance and if I perform 100%, I’m in with a good shout.

“The world championships were a big disappointment for me because I did not perform. All I had to do was box 50% and I would have won. Sadly I did not perform. I am over that now and hopefully I can make up for it.

“I just went back to my basics. I learned from the mistakes. When you are winning you don’t see your mistakes. Sometimes it helps to lose.

“I have been getting good sparring. Eddie Bolger is in Scotland and I was down in Eddie’s house in Wexford too. I’m going very well. I just want to thank the Sports Council for looking after me very well.”

Without being pushed, Ward, who added the European senior title to his world junior and youth titles last year, won the first round 5-1 to set the pattern and Joyce, a former world youths bronze medallist, never looked like getting into the fight.

Tonight the 10-time champion and Olympic silver medallist, Kenny Egan, will box Eamon Walsh (St Anne’s), for the other final spot and Egan was in the Stadium to watch last night’s fight.

“He was just average but then again Joyce did not show very much,” Egan said.

All three boxers who have qualified for the Olympic Games got through to next Friday night’s finals.

World bronze medallist, John Joe Nevin (Cavan), had to pull out all the stops for a 13-12 victory over the rangy Belfast bantamweight, Sean McComb (Holy Trinity), in an enthralling semi-final.

Nevin qualified for this year’s Olympic Games when he won a second bronze medal at the world championships in Baku but last night for two rounds it appeared as if McComb, who stands at 6’1“, was about to pull out a big shock.

He caught the Mullingar man with some perfectly place jabs as Nevin came forward in the first two rounds. The first round ended even at 3-3 but he won the second 4-3.

“I was getting caught silly early on,” Nevin admitted. “The same with Luke Campbell who beat me in the world championships — he was tall and rangy. I just have to try and work on those opponents.

“At the start of the third round he came out and caught me with a couple of shots but then I caught him with the head shots and he went down. It was a good shot — right hand, left hook — that’s the shot we have been working on all week. I knew when I caught him. It was so powerful I was just walking away as he went down.”

Then Nevin got a public warning for a low blow as he pounded his man to the body.

“He took the count but then he covered up and I worked to the body,” he recalled. “That was stupid. I thought the public warning could have handed it to him.

“You are well used to performing on the world stage and you have to treat this the same way. I didn’t perform great tonight but I can’t take anything away from Sean.”

Ross Hickey (Grangecon/Army) kept his defence of his light welterweight title on track with a 15-2 victory over Niall Murray (Gorey).

Middleweight Darren O’Neill (Paulstown) had to work hard against Conrad Cummings (Holy Trinity) in their semi-final before winning 13-10.

There were big shots, standing counts and public warnings dished out as O’Neill lost the first round 4-3 and then, after putting his man down with a big right hook, won the second 6-2. He forced another standing count in the third but got a standing count himself when he appeared to be just off balance.

“There are no easy fights,” O’Neill said. “I was in against this lad last year and I was 1-0 down, then 1-1, so I knew it was going to be a war. I knew he was going to come bombing, forgetting boxing. It was hard to score against him because he has got such a negative style.

“I dug deep. I hit him with some big shots and in fairness he came back. I hurt him in the last round and then I got a count for being off balance 10 seconds later which ruined the momentum.”

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