Misery for Ward as appeal dismissed
Boxing:European light-heavyweight champion Joe Ward will not compete at London 2012 after the appeal against his 18-15 defeat to Turkish fighter Bahram Muzaffer was dismissed this evening. Ward was controversially beaten by the home favourite having been behind for all three rounds earlier today.
The Irish camp was bemused by the decision and almost immediately protested, but such appeals are rarely successful. In this case, it was considered by International Boxing Association officials and no rule was seen to have been broken and there was, therefore, no means by which the decision could be over turned.
After the bout a deflated head coach Billy Walsh expressed his dismay with the scoring throughout the fight, which denied one of the best amateur fighters in the world a place at the Olympic Games in July.
“I thought Joe did all the cleaner scoring,” said Walsh before the protest was lodged. “But that’s what you’re up against. You’re here and there’s a partisan crowd. Even if Joe's hitting sometimes they are pressing the wrong button.
"He’s had two chances to qualify and he’s hasn’t done it and he’s probably one of the best boxers in the world."
Ward went 4-5 down after the first round, having knocked Muzaffer sideways in the opening seconds and knocked him back on his feet two more times in the three minutes. He then staggered his opponent in the second round, in an action packed three minutes with the 18-year-old Irishman the more aggressive fighter throughout.
While Ward tired in the dying minutes there was consternation from many people after he lost the bout. Walsh first consulted with Irish Amateur Boxing Association president Tommy Murphy before lodging the objection.
“He’s ahead of his time as regards Olympic qualification," said Walsh of the young man he hopes will remain amateur for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro. "He’s 18 years of age and really he should be looking at it for the next time around but he’s an awesome talent.
“He’s up there with the best in the world … he’s up there with them all and they’ll all be very happy to learn he hasn’t qualified.”
Ward's defeat was almost immediately followed by another Turkish win over an Irish fighter, when super-heavyweight Con Sheehan lost 17-12 to Erhan Aci on a day that began with a defeat for Ross Hickey against Moldovan Dmitri Galagot.
That leaves four of the original seven - West Belfast heavyweight Tommy McCarthy, welterweight Adam Nolan, light-flyweight Paddy Barnes and Athy lightweight David Oliver Joyce, who won his first round bout yesterday and is back in the ring against German Arthur Bril tomorrow - in contention for London places.
McCarthy earned a place in the quarter-finals when bossing his opening bout against Bosnia’s Colpa Alem. The Irish champion won each round without ever having to bring up the tempo in a controlled and dominant performance.
McCarthy spent the bout flicking out left jabs and taking few chances, his right hand unloading whenever Alem looked vulnerable.
In the end, he won his rounds at a canter, 4-1 in each for an overall total of 12-3 and a meeting with Hungary’s Jozesf Darmos. Only the winner in the heavyweight division will qualify for London 2012.
“I felt good in the ring today, felt fit and sharp," said McCarthy this evening. "Everything I was working on in the training camp came together and worked perfectly in the contest."
He admitted, however, that the mood in the camp had soured somewhat after Ward's surprise defeat.
“Up until this the mood has been great. Ross (Hickey) lost this morning, which was a shock, and Joe losing is the biggest shock of the year in Irish boxing. All the boys in the camp were thinking Joe’s going to win the Olympic Games, thought this was going to be easy, and now he’s not even going. I just can’t believe it."
Nolan took his first step towards qualification, despite being put on the canvas by Poland’s Tomas Kot in the third round of their bout.
After benefitting from a bye in the first round, the Bray Garda was dominant for the most part, using his superior reach and jab to frustrate a dangerous, swinging opponent for a largely one-sided and controlled 14-9 win.
He was on the ground twice. In the first it was as a result of tangled legs, but in the third, having lead 7-4 from the first and 11-6 after the second, a looping right hand from Kot caught him flush and the Irish champion ended up on the deck.
Nolan shook his head, more in frustration than injury, and safely negotiated his way to the final bell and into the last eight, his long right hand forever in Kot’s face and the left wound up and still scoring.
“I was saying to the lads inside ‘it’s not a nice feeling when you are put on your backside in the ring’," he said afterwards. "I hadn’t experienced that before, but I got a bit of fright. He caught me with a good shot but I was coasting until then, he caught me with a silly shot. I’ll just learn from it."
It was his first win at this level and he must get to the final for one of the two London places available.
Light-welterweight Hickey bowed out of the tournament when he came up against the talented Galagot in the first bout of the afternoon.
The three-time Irish champion came under pressure straight away from his taller opponent and after the first round he trailed 6-5. Although Hickey took the fight to his fellow southpaw, Galagot found it easy to pick off the Irishman. By the end of the second round, Hickey was 13-9 down and had to chase the fight in the final round.
However, Galagot was technically very strong and scored at will in the final round to extend his lead and force Hickey to take a standing count midway through the three minutes. The Moldovan ended the contest powerfully, improving his score to 24-11 by the final bell.