Two out of three ain’t bad, but there was heartache for Dean Walsh to go with joy for Michael O’Reilly and Brendan Irvine at the World Championships in Doha last night.
All three boxers were competing at the worlds for the first time, but at a competition that Billy Walsh ranks as the “hardest in the world”, it was a bitter blow for the Irish head coach to see his nephew Dean bow out following a split-decision opening-round loss.
However, the evening’s two victories suggest Irish boxing’s High-Performance conveyor belt will keep on ticking nonetheless after a solid start to the tournament, which is also a qualifier for the 2016 Rio Games.
Irvine, the baby of the seven-man Irish team, boxed with the composure of a seasoned veteran when seeing off American Nico Hernandez on a 3-0 unanimous points win.
Other than a brief blip in the second round when he looked a bit too relaxed, the 19-year-old looked calm throughout, whipping a right hand at Hernandez whenever the chance arose.
Irvine later claimed his demeanour masks a certain level of nervousness.
“I’m always quiet anyway but especially before the fight you’d be that extra bit quieter because of the nerves there’s that extra bit of pressure. It was good to get a first win,” said the Antrim light-flyweight. “I need to work on a few things — my jab is one, to keep using it, and my sidesteps because I wasn’t that quick on my feet.
“It was a good fight, though, not only for me but for Ireland, to get us off to a winning start.”
That momentum was upset by Walsh’s loss, however, with the Wexford welterweight on the wrong end of a 2-1 split decision to Venezuelan Luis Dian Arcon.
Walsh started well, claiming the first round after throwing the more accurate shots at close quarters before attempting to box at range.
He appeared to tire afterwards, however, and a game Arcon nicked the second and third rounds with two late flurries of punches.
“He put an awful lot into it but there was plenty left in his engine, but maybe it was nervousness or whatever,” suggested uncle and head coach Billy.
“He’s going to be obviously disappointed and we’d be disappointed if he wasn’t disappointed, but he needs to get his act together now and go in behind the rest of the team and study because he has an Irish championships to get through and then there’s the qualifiers for Rio and he still really has a good chance of qualifying.”
O’Reilly, meanwhile, looks determined to take his chance of Olympic qualification at the first time of asking.
The Portlaoise middleweight looked to have been handed a tough draw against Ukraine’s Valerii Kharlamov, but the 22-year-old delivered a delightful performance to pick up a 3-0 unanimous points win.
Kharlamov came at O’Reilly like a train, but the latter boxed off the back foot, landing uppercuts and hooks from all angles to take control.
After seeing out a brief storm of pressure in the second round, the European Game champion eased through the last round to book a last-16 clash with Aussie Daniel Lewis tomorrow.
“I just deal with whoever I get in the ring with. The rest of it doesn’t bother me. It’s just one step at a time,” said the Portlaoise man.
Taking their first steps today will be Belfast lightweight Seán McComb and Wexford welterweight Adam Nolan, who are both in last-32 action.
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