Michaela Walsh chasing gold after impressive display in Sofia

Michaela Walsh guaranteed Ireland at least bronze at the European Elite Women’s Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, yesterday.

The Irish feather edged Helina Bruyevich — her second victory over the gutsy Belarusian since 2014 — on a split decision to book her ticket to Monday’s semi-finals at the 11th edition of the tournament.

The Belfast-born EU champion, wary of Bruyevich’s wild right hooks, and opponent were ticked off for not engaging in the second round and Walsh soaked up a sweeping left at the start of the third.

However, the Irish Elite champion and two-time Commonwealth Games finalists used her jab, footwork, and hooks to solid effect in all three frames en route to Irish boxing’s (male and female) 60th medal at this level since 1939.

“It was a tremendous performance from Michaela against a tough opponent in her third fight since Tuesday,” said Bernard Dunne, IABA high-performance director and Irish team manager in Bulgaria.

Walsh can now enjoy a few days’ respite following a week in which she also beat England’s Karriss Artingstal and stunned Italy’s current World Elite champion Alessia Mesiano, both on unanimous decisions.

She meets Russia’s defending European feather Daria Abramova in the last four on Monday and is looking to become the first Irish woman beside six-times European champion Katie Taylor to reach a European Elite final.

Abramova beat Finland’s Mira Potkonen — who defeated Taylor at Rio 2016 in the Bray woman’s last fight as an amateur before turning pro — but the Russian lost to Walsh’s Irish teammate Kellie Harrington in 2017.

Harrington, meanwhile, is in quarter-final action this afternoon against Iulia Tsyplakova in what is expected to be a tricky lightweight encounter for the Dublin-born 2016 World Elite finalist as the Ukrainian has been boxing at Elite level for almost a decade.

Walsh and Harrington qualified for next year’s European Games by virtue of reaching the last eight on Sofia as the top 10 boxers in their weights book tickets.

Since the inaugural European Women’s Elites in 2001, Irish boxing has won nine medals. Taylor (6 gold), Clare Grace (bronze), Christina Desmond (bronze), and Walsh (at least bronze) having medalled over the years.

Harrington will be aiming to improve that haul to 10 medals over three three-minutes rounds this afternoon against Tsyplakova and could meet Potkonen in the semi-finals if she wins.

Meantime, Irish boxing has now won 23 medals in four European Elite/U22/Youth/Schoolboy/girl Championships this year since March.

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