Ireland’s Olympic boxing captain Brendan Irvine has exited the games following a split decision defeat to Carlo Paalam of the Philippines.
Flag-bearer at last week’s opening ceremony, ‘Wee Rooster’ entered Tokyo 2020 as the sole remaining member from Ireland’s 2016 roster, the Belfast native having overcome injury to secure qualification prior to the postponement of last summer’s games.
Alas, as in Rio, the 25-year-old came unstuck in his opening bout, this time against Asian Games medalist Paalam, who was given the nod by four of five ringside judges.
Irvine, whose résumé boasts multiple honours at European and Commonwealth level, struggled to find the pitch of those past performances in the first half of this contest.
Operating predominantly off the back foot in the early going, he was unable to make his loftier height and reach pay against the diminutive Paalam.
Indeed, the 23-year old Filipino was perpetual motion in round one, his clubbing flurries swarming the Irishman’s guard, continually piercing through with crisp hooks from his coiled stance as he took the opener on all scorecards.
Irvine had seemed to find his rhythm in the initial throes of round two, hitting the target with well-placed check hooks and pull counters. Paalam remained unperturbed, though, a seemingly ceaseless array of one-twos jarring his Irish opponent at regular intervals.
Aware of the need for a big finish, Irvine notably assumed a more proactive approach to start the final round, unleashing combinations of his own, his refined shot selection belatedly coming to the fore as he scored with deft leads.
Although happy to hold on in spots with the finish line in sight, Paalam nonetheless did more than enough to repel any late charge from the St Paul’s BC clubman.
Irvine’s reverse followed what had already been a mixed start between the ropes for Team Ireland in Japan.
Kurt Walker initially opened the account with an assured opening day victory over Spain’s Jose Quiles Brotons, setting up a last 16 date versus number-one-ranked featherweight Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov later this week.
Unfortunately, Dublin’s Emmet Brennan had no answer for Dilshodbek Ruzmetov in the pair’s preliminary round light-heavyweight meeting yesterday, coming up short against the Uzbekistani world silver medalist.
Hoping to get Ireland back to winning ways will be Michaela Walsh, who makes her Olympic bow later today [6.27am irish time] as she takes on old foe Irma Testa for a place in the women’s 57kg quarterfinals.