Dean Gardiner can book Ireland's ninth Olympic boxing place

Dean Gardiner could increase Ireland’s Olympic boxing contingent to nine with victory in Baku today after a 3-0 unanimous decision points victory in his semi-final yesterday.

Clonmel super-heavyweight Gardiner took the first two rounds against Moldovan Alexei Zavatin and claimed the win despite losing the final stanza at the final amateur qualifier for Rio 2016. His victory sets up a final showdown with Italian Guido Vianello.

Only the gold medal winner qualifies for the Olympics in Gardiner’s super-heavyweight (91+kg) division, meaning the Clonmel dark horse faces a must-win showdown today.

Michael O’Reilly became the eighth Irish boxer to book a ticket for Rio by reaching the semi-finals, but he maintained his winning ways with a unanimous points victory over Iraq’s Abdulrldha Waheed in their last-four contest yesterday.

Meanwhile, former European amateur medallist Eric Donovan is aiming to build towards an Irish title shot with victory tonight as he makes his professional debut.

The 30-year-old Athy native takes on Poland’s Damian Lawniczak on a show promoted by former two-weight world champion Ricky Hatton at Dublin’s National Stadium.

“The win is very important because I want to make a natural progression. I’ve decided I’m going to dedicate the next five or six years of my life to this game and I think I can definitely do something,” said Donovan.

“I’ve had WSB experience, I’ve been in the top amateurs and I believe at 31, sometime next year I can be boxing for an Irish title in my fifth fight,” added Donovan, who will campaign at super-featherweight.

Hatton, who is staging the card along with Dublin-based Frank Stacey Boxing, is enthusiastic about what he hopes will be the first of fight-night promotions under the banner in Ireland.

“You’ve got all this talent and they always seem to have to go outside the country to fight,” said Hatton.

“I’m thinking long-term and I want this show to be a real success,” added the former world champion, who is set to be in the corner of Navan super-middleweight protégé Chris Blaney tonight.


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