JOHN JOE NEVIN returns home tomorrow with a bronze medal from the world boxing championships after failing by just a single point in his bid to convert it to silver.
The 20-year-old Mullingar man lost to the talented Russian bantamweight, Eduard Abzalimov, 5-4, in a tactical and desperately close quarter-final in Milan yesterday.
The Russian, a former European junior champion and world junior silver medallist, snatched the only point scored in the first round and that would eventually prove decisive after the second round ended scoreless and they drew a thrilling third round 4-4.
With his bronze medal secure – he became only the sixth Irish boxer to win a medal at the world senior championship – Nevin was by no means despondent but there was total agreement that he could not have done more.
“I thought it was a great fight,” Nevin said. “I gave everything. From that point of view, I shouldn’t be too disappointed.
“I wanted to make history by being the first Irishman to reach a world final and I was beaten by just one point.
“I am happy to have a bronze medal. It is only my second year as a senior. I got to the Olympics last year and semi-final at the world championships this year.
“The Russians are in great condition out here but we have shown we are making huge progress. We are getting great support from Billy (Walsh), Zaur (Antia), Jim (Moore), our sports psychologist (Gerry Hussey) and we get great funding from Sports Council. We have a great set-up and we did not lack anything.”
“Losing by just one point is always hard to take,” Irish head coach, Billy Walsh, insisted. “It was a very technical, tactical fight. Unfortunately we came out the wrong side of it.
“No score in the second round at all. There was just the one score in the first round and it came from a very, very cheap right hand.
“We changed tactics a bit in the third round. We started to push him back and we had a bit more success. Unfortunately every time we seemed to get level Abzalimov seemed to get one back and there were a couple of times when John Joe hit him with good, clean punches and did not get a score for it.
“Okay he was scoring with good punches too but after it went 5-4, John Joe caught him with a good body shot and then a big right hand but he did not get a score from those punches.
“In fairness to John Joe he gave it everything. He has had a fantastic week. He has had five fights against the best bantamweights in the world – and we should remember the bantamweight division is one of the most competitive in boxing – and he performed exceptionally well.
“We have never won a medal at the world senior championships since we started the programme so our target at the beginning of the year was to win a medal out here in Milan.
“I felt we were capable of winning another couple of medals but when you look back at it and see that we got three lads into the top eight in the world, we got one medal, and that is the best we have done since the programme began.
“We are now a feared nation in the draw. That is testament to the team and to the whole programme.
“Coming out of Athens and heading towards Beijing we had one boxer in the top eight at the world championships and heading towards London 2012 we have three lads in the top eight which is a 300% increase.
“A lot of athletes take a year out after the Olympics. Obviously Kenny (Egan) was not operating at the same level he was operating at the Olympic Games last year and that’s to be expected.
“Next year we have the European Championships in Moscow. There will be huge expectations again.
“A lot of boxers we saw at the Olympics have turned pro and most countries are building for 2012 and we have new faces coming in.”
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