Some ‘mouth-watering’ battles in prospect on Friday as we reach Finals Night at the 2013 Irish Elite Championships which will after all take place at the National Stadium.
Among the highlights of the evening will – on paper anyway- be the third meeting of Joe Ward and Kenny Egan in the Light-Heavyweight final whilst at 69kg Irish Olympian Adam Nolan (Bray BC) versus Willie McLaughlin (Illies GG)
is another of the men’s bouts to savour?
There are four women’s bouts on the card, three of them Elite Championship finals, whilst the main ‘supporting’ bout sees Olympic Gold Medallist, Katie Taylor return to the ring for the first time since that magic afternoon on 9 August
when she struck Gold in that never to be forgotten final against Russia’s Sofya Ochigava.
The first of the women’s finals pits Michaela Walsh of the Holy Family club in Belfast against Joanne Lambe from Stonetown near Carrickmacross. Walsh is currently ranked no. 11 in the AIBA World ranking for February and had a good win
(and a loss) against world no. 2 England’s Lisa Whitehead in their two recent meetings in Mayo. I would expect Walsh to take the 57kg title here.
In the 54kg bantamweight final. Dervla Duffy from Doohamlet, Castleblayney (who boxes out of the Ryston Club in Newbridge, Co. Kildare) takes on defending champion, Michelle Lynch of Belmullet’s Golden Gloves club .
Lynch defeated Michelle Chambers of Castlebar Boxing Club in the 2012 final on a 12-3 score line and subsequently overcame the then Australian champion, Bianca Elmir 42-41 on a count back after the bout ended 14-14.
Duffy has just moved from 57kg to 54kg so this will be her first meeting with Lynch. This should be an exciting contest. Duffy, a three time Haringey Box Cup Gold Medallist in London has been boxing now for four years and really enjoys her career.
She told SportsNewsIreland : “I love it more now than I ever did, I love the atmosphere when you walk into the gym, the camaraderie amongst your training partners and coaches, it’s a bond that you earn and build up over time through hard work and you earn it. You earn it in the ring sparring night after night ,pushing each other to the brink of failure – it’s hard to describe until you feel it’. In 2012, Duffy represented Ireland in the European Union Championships in Katowice going under to eventual Gold medallist, the home nation’s Sandra Kruk.
The third women’s final is at 64kg where titleholder, Sarah Close comes up against Kelly Harrington from the Corinthians Club in Dublin. Harrington had an excellent win in the semi-final overcoming Alanna Audley-Murphy, a three times English ABA champion.
The Dubliner is gradually getting back to her best after a long layoff due injury and illness. She has been Irish Senior champion previously at 64kg and also at 69kg.
Looking ahead to Friday’s final she told SportsNewsIreland :
“I have boxed Sarah Close before in Haringey and beat her but since then she has grown as a boxer as I have. I have respect for Close as she is a nice girl. I was more than happy with the win over Murphy as that was our third time meeting. First time she beat me in a box- off for 2010 Worlds in Barbados, next time was senior final 2011 and I beat her by I think 3 points so I was very happy with the score this time.” “I am feeling comfortable and confident about Friday can’t wait for it. I have trained hard and hopefully all the hard work that my coaches and I put in pays off”.
As to the supporting bout, it will be a welcome return to the ring for Katie Taylor who is once more Irish Elite Champion ( unopposed). She has defeated the three-time EU silver medallist Karolina Graczyk in both of their previous meetings – including the 2011 European Union lightweight final in Katowice.
The Pole was a silver medallist in the 2008 European Union Championships in Liverpool losing out in the final against England’s Lucy O’Connor. She has had some fine wins over many of the world’s top 20 at 60kg though she has twice lost to Sofya Ochigava, both at 57kg.
As to the Taylor versus Graczyk bout, Mustafa Kocinoglu is Vice- President of the Polish Boxing Federation. How does he see Friday’s encounter?
Kocinoglu reports that Graczyk is very much looking forward to the rematch with the three-time AIBA World female boxer of the year and Olympic Gold medallist..
“Karolina welcomes the opportunity to wage her next fight with the best boxer on the globe, he said.
“Karolina is thinking seriously about her future career and wants to fight with the best boxers. She’s returned to boxing after a few months break.
“It is a great honour for her (to box Taylor). She does not feel pressure or stage fright before this fight. She knows Katie well.
“They boxed two times and each subsequent confrontation is for her a very important and valuable experience.”
One would expect Taylor to win with something to spare but come what may she is sure to get a great ovation from the packed Stadium crowd
IABA director of boxing development Dominic O’Rourke, who worked closely with Kocinoglu and the Polish Boxing Federation to set up the Taylor versus Graczyk encounter, is eagerly looking forward to the 2013 Elite Championship finals and the Taylor/Graczyk fight.
“Where else would you get it? We’ll have Olympic, World, European, EU and Irish champions and medallists competing,” he said. “That’s world-class boxing by any standards.”
Elite National Championships February 22nd National Stadium Dublin (7pm)
(1) 49kg: (Light-flyweight) – Hugh Myers (Ryston) v TJ Waite (Cairn Lodge)
(2) 57kg: (Featherweight) – Michaela Walsh (Holy Family) v Joanna Lambe (Carrickmacross)
(3) 52kg: (Flyweight) – Michael Conlan (St John Bosco) v Chris Phelan (Ryston)
(4) 64kg: (Light-welterweight) – Ross Hickey (Grangecon) v Ray Moylette (St Anne’s)
(5) 56kg: (Bantamweight) – Declan Geraghty (Crumlin) v Gary McKenna (Old School)
(6) 60kg: (Lightweight) – Sean McComb (Holy Trinity) v George Bates (St Mary’s)
(7) 75kg: (Middleweight) – Jason Quigley (Finn Valley) v Roy Sheahan (St Michael’s Athy)
(8) 91kg: (Heavyweight) – Tommy McCarthy (Oliver Plunkett) v Jimmy Sweeney (Drimnagh)
(9) 81kg: (Light-heavyweight) – Joe Ward (Moate) v Ken Egan (Neilstown)
(10) Additional Bout – 60kg: (Lightweight) – Katie Taylor (Ireland) v Karolina Grazcyk (Poland)
(11) 69kg: (Welterweight) – Adam Nolan (Bray) v Willie McLaughlin (Illies GG)
(12) 54kg: (Bantamweight) – Michelle Lynch (Golden Gloves) v Dervla Duffy (Ryston)
(13) 64kg: (Light-welterweight) – Sarah Close (Holy Family) v Kelly Harrington (Corinthians)
(14) 91+kg: (Super-heavyweight) – Sean Turner (Drimnagh) v Niall Kennedy ( Gorey)
For those of you unable to get to the National Stadium, there will be Live coverage on RTÉ Two from 9.45pm Friday.