Michael Conlan will attempt to become the first Irishman to ever claim a senior gold medal at the World Championships in Doha on Wednesday, although the 23-year-old Belfast native does not plan on hanging on to the prize for long should he claim it.
The Irish team captain promised any final medal will be given to his young daughter, born earlier this year, if he manages to beat Murodjon Akhmadaliev of Uzbekistan – the world No 22 and a silver medallist at the Asian Games - but he has been busy securing numerous gifts for his family all week at the Ali Bin Hamad Al Attiya Arena.
The Falls Road fighter dedicated his semi-final win yesterday to brother Jamie, an undefeated pro boxer, on his birthday after he had already ensured a medal on the same day as his mother, Teresa, celebrated her birthday on Saturday.
“That’s Jamie and my mum’s birthday presents sorted, two days in a row, so quite a good achievement,” laughed Conlan. “The final one will be for my daughter.”
Joe Ward will tonight attempt to become the third Irishman to contest a senior Worlds decider – he would fight on Thursday, while Conlan’s final appearance follows that of Jason Quigley in 2013 – but Michael O’Reilly is set for a third-place Olympic qualification box-off after losing his last-four clash last night.
Conlan made light work of Dzimitry Asanau, claiming a 3-0 unanimous points win in his bantamweight clash, although two judges surprisingly awarded the Belarusian the second round.
The 23-year-old Belfast native now has a World silver medal at the least, while his place at the Rio Olympics is already secure thanks to his success in the World Series of Boxing earlier this year.
The boyish-looking Asanau, just 19, looked nervous during the opening stages of last night’s bout and a short left hand from Conlan a minute into the second round forced his staggering opponent to the ropes.
“The gameplan was to keep him at distance, keep the feints going,” said Conlan after his 30-27, 29-28, 29-28 win. “I probably could’ve feinted more, but what I did today was the right thing to do.”
O’Reilly boxed well against Uzbekistan’s Bektemir Melikuziev, but lost a 2-1 split decision (28-29, 27-30, 30-27).
The Portlaoise middleweight must now win a third-place box-off against Hosam Abdin of Egypt on Thursday to be certain of booking his place at the Rio Olympics – although convoluted AIBA rules mean another path may possibly open up depending on other results.O’Reilly’s counter-attacking gameplan was upset against Melikuziev as he lost the first round and the 22-year-old said afterwards: “It’s my fourth fight in a week so I’m starting to get a bit tired. I’m bound to get a little but tired… Four fights in such a short gap is tough, but that’s just boxing.”
Meanwhile, Irish head coach Billy Walsh is determined to ensure Moate light-heavyweight Ward peaks for his semi-final as both 81kg finalists in the Moate man’s divsision qualify for the Rio Olympics.
The 21-year-old meets World No 17 and Asian Games silver medallist Ishod Rasulov of Uzbekistan tonight, an opponent the Irishman defeated two years ago, but Ward missed out on qualification for the London 2012 Olympics when he suffered a surprise loss to Ehsan Rouzbahani of Iran in the 2011 Worlds.
“He lost on a countback then because he thought he was doing enough to win, and he didn’t,” said Walsh. “He was trying to get himself through the competition but not peak until the final.”
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