David Oliver Joyce is hoping it’s third time lucky for him and his Olympic dream.
The Athy lightweight (60kg) is one of a nine-strong Irish team set to compete in the European Olympic qualifiers which get underway in Samsun, Turkey today.
Four boxers – Paddy Barnes, Joe Ward, Steven Donnelly and world champion Michael Conlan – have already booked their tickets for Rio and the likes of Joyce, Katie Taylor and world medallist Michael O’Reilly are hoping to secure their qualification spots in the next week.
The top three male boxers in each weight class will qualify – third-placed box-offs decide the final place – while female finalists will progress to Rio 2016.
This not the last-chance saloon for Joyce, though. The 29-year-old, a cousin of Joe Ward, also has two other qualification routes open to him through the new APB ‘professional’ league competition and a final ‘world’ qualifier in the summer, which means it would be understandable if he adopted a ‘three and easy’ attitude.
However, having just missed out on Olympic qualification for the 2008 Beijing Games and the London 2012 edition, Joyce is hoping this mission in Turkey will be ‘third time lucky’.
“I think I’m looking forward to it [the Olympic campaign] more than I was back in 2008 and 2012 because I’m at a mature age and feel I’ve peaked and I’m ready for it,” said the six-time Irish Elite champion. “Winning the [national] seniors gave me the three options and three chances, but I’m not looking at the other two, I’m looking at No 1 at the minute and that’s this first one in Turkey,” explained Joyce.
“If things worked out then I’ll have my plane booked for Rio and I can relax for a couple of weeks, but if things don’t work out according to plan I still have two other qualifiers to follow after it so there’s no pressure,” added Joyce.
To say there is no pressure ignores his past Olympic heartbreak.
Efforts to qualify for London 2012 were particularly disappointing as a questionable points deduction seconds before the final bell of his last-16 bout against Jai Bhagwan cost him victory and an Olympic place.
“I know this year is my last shot but I don’t feel pressure,” he insisted. “I don’t want to be thinking about it coming down to the line and if I don’t do it at this first qualifier that I have to do it at the second or third one, I’m just looking forward to it.”
The APB league – or AIBA Pro Boxing, with bouts over eight rounds – Joyce has competed in is part of the world governing body’s efforts to restructure the sport from its amateur traditions, while maintaining the Olympics as its centre-piece.
Reports have suggested AIBA may allow current professionals to compete in the Olympics, but Joyce says “I think over three threes [three rounds of three minutes], elite amateur boxers beat pro boxers… they don’t start as fast as amateurs.
“I wouldn’t really be worried about it, I’d love for some of the main guys to come back again. I know over three threes I’m at that standard and I’d beat any of them.”
One of the names mentioned is his old amateur rival Carl Frampton, the reigning IBF and WBA world super-bantamweight champion in the pro ranks.
“I’d love another crack at him. He beat me the last time  and he didn’t give me the opportunity to beat him again,” laughed Joyce.
“We sparred a couple of times after that and it was neck and neck, but I wish him all the best in the pro game.”
Joyce has always been an entertaining come-forward fighter and it seems that he has never been one to back down from a fight.
Speaking in promotion of the Irish Athletic Boxing Association’s ‘Let’s KO Bullying’ campaign, the 29-year-old admits that growing up he often fought against discrimination as a member of the Travelling Community.
“When I was younger, I did get a bit a little bit [bullied] but I started boxing at seven or eight years so I could always back myself up in school.
“I saw my pals getting bullied and I had to stand up for them... I think it [the anti-bullying campaign] is a great thing because I’ve got a young son growing up and I don’t want to see it happening to him.”
Discrimination was never a problem in the gym or the boxing world, however, for the St Michael’s Athy alumni.
“In boxing, it was more like a big family… you’re all friends and you do it in the ring, but when you’re in school you could have maybe four guys picking on one guy. I don’t recommend any young lad to stand up and fight back, they should go and talk to somebody or speak about it. At that time, I didn’t have any help and I had to deal with it in my own way but I don’t want my kid to have to do something like that.”
A man more mature in and out of the ring.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved