Zaur Antia claims he has not set a minimum medals tally for Team Ireland at the World Championships, insisting the squad will maintain their “one-fight-at-a-time” approach to the competition.
Irish head coach Antia leads a five-man team into action in Hamburg where Joe Ward, Seán McComb, Kurt Walker, Brendan Irvine and Dean Gardiner will compete after the squad arrived in the northern German city yesterday.
Boxing gets underway on Friday as Team Ireland look to follow up their impressive performance at the last World Championships in Doha two years ago when Michael Conlan became the first Irish male boxer to ever win a gold medal at the tournament, while Ward (silver) and Michael O’Reilly (bronze) also finished on the podium.
Irish boxing has experienced much change since then, with Conlan among an exodus of fighters to move to the pro ranks after the departure of Billy Walsh was followed by a disappointing Olympic campaign in Rio last summer.
A successful European Championships saw the Irish squad get back on track with Ward (gold), Walker and Irvine (both bronze) claiming medals.
While Antia believes his team are confident of bagging more medals in Hamburg, he insists that they will not look past any early challenges.
“We’re never thinking just about gold medals, we’re thinking about one fight at a time,” said Antia.
“Everyone’s in a good mood and they’re all feeling confident and aiming for a gold medal.
“That’s what they’re thinking, but they also know each fight, each minute and each second is most important. It’s one fight at a time, one minute at a time,” added the Georgian native, who will work alongside High Performance director Bernard Dunne and fellow coaches John Conlan and Dmitry Dimitruc.
European light-heavyweight champion Ward is ranked at No 3 in the world at his 81kg weight class and the 2015 World silver medallist will hope to receive a bye in tomorrow’s (Thurs) draw, while Rio Olympian Irvine, the No 10 flyweight in the world, may also receive a bye to avoid a weekend bout at 52kg.
Belfast pair McComb (64kg) and Walker (56kg) both appear likely to fight on the first day of action on Friday, while Clonmel super-heavyweight Gardiner is expected to have his opener on Saturday.
“It’s a good team, good boxers and they’ve been training hard and they’re in a good position now,” said Antia on the team preparations following a training camp at the English Institute of Sport in Sheffield last week.
“We had a fantastic training camp in Sheffield, everything was good and everything went well. They all had good sparring,” added the Irish coach. While Ireland will have five boxers in action in Hamburg, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Germany will have the most representatives among the 85 competing nations. Both the Kazakhs and Uzbeks qualified a maximum of 10 boxers, while Germany – coached by former Ireland coach Eddie Bolger – were also entitled to the maximum quota as hosts.
The tournament has been overshadowed by a political dispute among the top brass of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) in recent weeks as AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu has faced significant opposition from a group of officials, who oppose his leadership.
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