JOHN JOE NEVIN laid claim to a bronze medal and put himself in line for even greater things when he outpointed Chinese bantamweight Yu Gu, 7-5, to qualify for tomorrow semi-finals at the World boxing championships in Milan.
It was a day of mixed fortunes for Irish boxers. Olympic silver medallist, Kenny Egan, who has been struggling to regain his Beijing form, made a disappointing exit from the tournament when he was beaten 17-9 by French light heavyweight Abdelkader Bouhenia while Donegal welterweight, Willie McLaughlin, lost to 16-7 to the Russian, Andrey Zamkovoy.
Nevin, however, was brilliant against a Chinese bantamweight who ran out of ideas. After failing to throw a punch at one stage in the contest, Gu was given a public warning by the referee for his reticence. This cost him two points and that is the margin that separated the two boxers at the end.
Nevin, the 20 year old Mullingar man who boxes out of the Cavan club, was ice cool throughout. Gu was the first to register a score but it was Nevin who took control of proceedings, taking a 5-2 lead into the third round.
The Chinese had to pull out all the stops now and he pulled back two points before Nevin, who had been slipping the punches, caught him with a big left hand to cement his lead with just seconds remaining.
“John Joe boxed exceptionally well,” Irish head coach, Billy Walsh, said. “This was a very tactical fight. It was evident from the outset that the one who was going to concede a score was the one who was going to lose.
“John Joe was brilliant. He did everything you could have asked of him. Let’s not forget he had a rocky start to the season. He was chasing wins all the time – thinking about the outcome rather than thinking about the process and that step-by-step approach which is vital.
“He won the gold medal at his very first Olympic qualifying tournament last year but he was very disappointed with his Olympics. This year, he went to the EU championships and beat the European champion. Then in the final he got caught by the German and that was a bit of a shock to the system. It was complacency.
“And then he did not have a great training camp leading up to those championships. He was put on his backside one day so we took him out of the main sparring and got him some easy spars and that built up his confidence again. We just worked on building his confidence back up because we knew he had the ability.
“When he got a win under his belt here in Milan he blossomed from then on.”
Tomorrow he meets Eduard Abzalimov of Russia for a place in Saturday’s final. The Russian who has won all his contests by impressive margins, defeated Chatchai Butdee from Thailand in yesterday’s quarter-finals.
“We did not have an opportunity to see Abzalimov yet,” Billy Walsh said. “We are just going to enjoy tonight and we have all day tomorrow to relax and take a look at this Russian.
“I would expect it is going to be another tough, close contest, but with the form John Joe is in right now, anything is possible.”
Willie McLoughlin, a relative newcomer to the High Performance Programme, was up against a classy Russian southpaw in Andrey Zamkovoy but the Donegal man performed brilliantly.
After falling 4-1 behind in the first round, the Donegal welterweight had to chase the fight and that’s never easy, particularly against a southpaw.
Zamkovoy kept catching him with the counter punch and took an 11-3 lead into the third round.
“Willie gave a great account of himself,” insisted Billy Walsh. “It is just that his opponent was that bit better – a very tall, southpaw.”
Kenny Egan got off to a flying start against the French light heavyweight, Abdelkader Bouhenia, taking a 3-0 lead. But Bouhenia levelled the score at the end of the round.
“Kenny got through with a few good shots but they were not scoring,” Billy Walsh said. “Then he went to sleep for a bit in the middle round and the French man went six points up. Kenny chased his man down and tried to get it back in the third but it just was not possible against an opponent with a longer reach.
“Kenny is very disappointed This is the only (major tournament) medal he has not won. It’s a great achievement to make the top eight in the world and I know he will be back in two years.”
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