Zaur Antia: I turned down other offers

Zaur Antia revealed he rebuffed a number of coaching offers from rival countries before taking up his position as Irish boxing’s interim head coach.

Zaur Antia: I turned down other offers

The 52-year-old Georgian was appointed in the fallout to Billy Walsh’s resignation after the Wexford native departed for a new coaching role with USA Boxing following months of failed contract negotiations with the IABA.

The IABA will tonight discuss a long-term coaching plan as the association’s board of directors meet at the Stadium, while officials from the association are also due to meet with Minister for Sport Michael Ring and representatives of Sport Ireland (formerly the Irish Sports Council) this afternoon.

While Antia has been appointed as interim head coach, it has not yet been confirmed if the Georgian will take on the role full-time in the build-up to the Rio Olympic Games IABA CEO Fergal Carruth expressed his ‘full support’ of Antia, but the association’s board members will tonight discuss a long-term coaching strategy as they meet for the first time since last week’s Oireachtas Committee meeting analysed the Walsh saga.

Antia is likely to figure prominently, no matter what his long-term position, as the Georgian is one of the most highly-rated technical coaches in the world and IABA officials are keen to ensure he is retained in the long term.

“I have had offers from a few other countries,” confirmed Antia, who was unwilling to entertain any offers. “They asked me but I never negotiated or anything. I would not do this without speaking [to the IABA].”

The Georgian, a former Master of Boxing in the Soviet Union, has been instrumental to the revival of Irish boxing on the international stage, working alongside Walsh since the pair helped Gary Keegan set up the High Performance Unit (HPU) in 2003.

He is now set to work alongside coaching colleagues such as Eddie Bolger and John Conlan as they aim to maintain the success of the HPU following Walsh’s departure.

Decorated fighters such as Katie Taylor and Paddy Barnes emphasised Antia is ‘irreplaceable’ as speculation mounted in recent weeks he could follow Walsh to the USA.

“The boxers’ words are everything,” said Antia on the fighters’ words of support. “They look at me and they know I’m beside them.”

The coach is also keen to see some semblance of a coaching succession strategy introduced, with Antia agreeing graduates of the High Performance Unit should be retained as coaches after retirement if possible.

The appointment of a High Performance Director has been a contentious issue for the IABA since the resignation of Gary Keegan in 2008.

Wexford native Walsh was upset at the association’s refusal to promote him to the position, while an effort to appoint then-IABA president Dominic O’Rourke to the role in 2010 was blocked by the Irish Sports Council with the job remaining unfilled since.

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