Emmet Brennan said he wasn’t affected by nerves at he booked his place at the Tokyo Olympics by winning his last chance box-off at the European qualifying event in Paris.
The 30-year-old from Dublin had one final opportunity to qualify after losing his quarter-final to Croatia’s Luka Plantic on Saturday and survived a cut in the first round and a point deduction in the third to beat Lindon Nuha, of Sweden, by a narrow but unanimous points decision.
Brennan said he had been helped by the Ireland team’s sport psychologist to prepare and it paid off as he said he treated the biggest fight of his life like just any other bout.
“I’ve actually been not as nervous as I should have been,” Brennan said. “The last hour I was just trying to get into my head ‘I just have to get a win, it’s only nine minutes away’.
“There was no point in dwelling on a loss, when I had to get ready for the biggest fight of my life.
“It was last chance, so I had no choice but to throw that out of the way.”
The bout turned into an ugly brawl. Nuha was free with his head and Brennan was cut over the right eye in the first round. Nuha also ended that round by hitting Brennan twice after the bell. He also used his forearm and the inside of his glove, which he raked over the injury.
Incredibly, when it came to a point being taken away, it was the Irishman that the referee punished for holding.
It meant that Brennan got dragged into the type of fight he didn’t want. While John Conlan, in his corner, implored him to sidestep Nuha’s head-on attacks, too often they became tied up.
In the end, one judge had Brennan ahead, 29-27, while the other four had it 28-28. In Olympic boxing, all judges must pick a winner in the event of a level card and they all went for Brennan.
He becomes the seventh Ireland boxer to book his place for Tokyo.
There were also wins for Michaela Walsh and Kellie Harrington, who now head into the finals with a good chance of being a top two seed in Tokyo, while Aidan Walsh and Aoife O’Rourke lost unanimous decisions to Great Britain pair Pat McCormack and Lauren Price.
Brennan has a simple answer to the team’s success — no egos.
“Everyone works together, we have a strong squad, we have a strong backroom staff,” he said. “Zero egos. That makes for a happier dressing room and makes for better training across the board.
“The plan is to get a medal in Tokyo. I quit boxing and only came back four years ago. The goal was to get to the Olympics. Now it is to push on and try to get a medal, I’m going to give it everything I have.”