Team Ireland have finished with a tally of one gold, one silver and one bronze at the World Championships in Doha and, while Joe Ward had to settle for a runner-up prize, he was content with his lot.
Having reached the 81kg light-heavyweight final at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena, Ward had booked his flight to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The 21-year-old was last night out to match the achievement of Michael Conlan, who became the first Irishman to claim gold at the event on Wednesday night.
However, following a 3-0 points loss to Cuban Julio La Cruz, Ward had to be satisfied with a silver medal to match Jason Quigley’s 2013 runner-up prize, as he became only the third Irish male boxer to contest a world senior final.
“You’d be disappointed not to get it, because any boxer wants to win, he never wants to lose, so of course you’re disappointed,” said Ward.
“But at the start of the tournament if I was offered a silver medal and be qualified for the Olympic Games, I’d take it with both hands.”
The Moate native will be out to avenge last night’s defeat to La Cruz in Rio after the Cuban became a three-time senior world champion with a 30-27 victory on all three scorecards last night in a 3-0 unanimous decision.
Ward fought valiantly, but the evasive Cuban was too hard to catch.
“It’s very hard against someone who moves so well,” said Ward on his crafty approach in the opening round.
“I went in there and my tactics were to stay in centre and keep him at distance, but he’s a world-class operator and it’s very hard to run him down, in any way.”
The 26-year-old Cuban possesses a long reach and fast hands that snap away at pursuing opponents.
“The first round was nip and tuck, but the Cuban landed a couple of right hands near the end of the round,” said Irish head coach Billy Walsh.
“He had an aura around him going into the ring and had been voted Boxer of the Year [by AIBA] a couple of nights ago.”
Oddly, La Cruz picked up that award on Tuesday night in advance of the bout, but Walsh admitted it was a fair result last night and praised Ward for improving his 2013 world semi-final loss to the talented Cuban. “Overall, he gave a great account of himself at these championships,” said Walsh. “It was a fantastic championship for him.”
Meanwhile, Michael O’Reilly’s chances of booking a ticket to Rio remain shrouded in uncertainty.
Portlaoise middleweight O’Reilly lost out in controversial fashion to Egypt’s Hosam Abdin on Wednesday night in a third-place Olympic box-off.
Boxing’s world governing body AIBA last night insisted that National Olympic Committees have until December 4 to confirm their use of Olympic quota places, meaning some confusion remains surrounding the status of world champion Arlen Lopez.
The Cuban champion could free up a spot for World Championship semi-finalist O’Reilly, depending on whether his federation and NOC pick to send him to Rio via his success in the World Series of Boxing earlier this year.
Team Ireland arrive home at Dublin Airport today.
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