IRISH boxers will be targeting half a dozen gold medals at the European Union Championships in Poland today.
Six Irish boxers, including four of Irelands five Olympians, will compete in six of 11 finals in today’s European Union Champions finals in Cetniewo — and two of those clashes are all Olympic showdowns between Ireland and England.
Irish captain Ken Egan and Darren Sutherland, who have both qualified for Beijing, will face English 2008 Olympians Tony Jeffries and James DeGale in the light heavyweight and middleweight finals at the Olympic Centre in Cetniewo.
Sutherland, from the St Saviours club in Dublin, has beaten DeGale three times in four meetings, including his victory in the 2007 European Union Championship 75Kg final at the National Stadium in Dublin.
However, DeGale exacted revenge for the Dublin reversal when he outpointed Sutherland at the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers at the University of Illinois in Chicago last November.
Meanwhile, Belfast light flyweight Paddy Barnes is facing a tough task in this afternoon’s 48Kg final, where he gloves off against three times Hungarian Olympian and former European champion Bedak Pal.
Tipperary heavyweight Con Sheehan, the reigning Irish senior champion, is in against Ilias Pavlidis of Greece, who was desperately unlucky not to claim a medal at the 2004 Olympics after he suffered a injury whilst ahead on points in the quarter finals.
Barnes, Nevin, Sutherland, Egan and John Joe Joyce, who bowed out of the EU Championships in the earlier rounds this week, have qualified for the Olympics Games.
Ireland won three gold and two silver medals at the 2007 Championships at the National Stadium in Dublin, Egan, Sutherland and Roy Sheahan, who is out injured, finishing on top of the podium.
That haul saw Ireland finish on top of the medals table, and according to Irish head coach Billy Walsh they would like to maintain their status as the top boxing nation in the European Union.
He said: “Getting six boxers into the finals is one better than last year and this time we are doing it away from home.
“The lads have been performing magnificently here this week and their confidence is high going into the finals.”
European Union finals draw: 48Kg: Paddy Barnes (Ireland) v Bedak Pal (Hungary) 54Kg: John Joe Nevin (Ireland) v Mazik Mateusz (Poland) 57Kg: David Oliver Joyce (Ireland) v Mirsad Ahmeti (Croatia) 75Kg: Darren Sutherland (Ireland) v James DeGale (England) 81Kg: Ken Egan (Ireland) v Tony Jeffries (England) 91Kg; Con Sheehan (Ireland) v Ilias Pavlidis (Greece)
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