Quiet Georgian a big asset in Ireland's corner
BOXING:NOT A lot is said about the Georgian man standing in the corner for all of Ireland’s Olympic fights. Yesterday he stood alongside Pete Taylor for Katie’s lightweight bout. In the men’s competition, he’s always there with Billy Walsh. Zaur Antia is the constant presence when Irish boxers are competing.
Known simply as Zaur he does good-natured surly very well. He and Walsh particularly have developed a highly successful relationship within the team, Zaur dealing with the minutiae of the boxers’ analysis and opponents and Walsh overseeing the entire elite program.
“In the second round she stopped doing what she was doing in the first round and I got a bit concerned,” said Walsh of Katie Taylor’s performance yesterday. “But Zaur got her back together and she came out for the third round all guns blazing.”
Zaur is the technical brains in the Irish team. He thinks about opponents and reads fights and dispenses his thoughts to great effect. He talks the psychology, the tactics, the tricks ands the best style suited to beat any given opponent. A naturalised Irish citizen, he is the trainer in the Irish camp that the boxers and the other coaches such as Walsh and Pete Taylor see as someone to respect.
He has also contributed hugely to Ireland’s recent success in boxing and has been party to the Irish haul of 17 medals at the European Championships, six at the World Championships and as it stands now, five at the Olympic Games over the past eight years.
His commitment to Ireland has also been unquestionable, not least of all back in Beijing when Russia and Georgia went to war over the South Ossetia territory. Zaur’s entire family including his wife, son, daughter and grandchild were forced to take flight to the mountains and were incommunicado for three days.
Even under that astonishing pressure and anxiety for his family’s safety he was able to carry out his job in the Olympic Village and tended to the team in the usual way.
As it was, the boxing in Beijing was a huge Irish success with the late Darren Sutherland and Paddy Barnes winning bronze medals and Kenny Egan the silver.
Egan said earlier this year that Zaur taught him many of the tricks and tactical combinations that helped him get to the Olympic final.
When the team returned from China, Zaur was rightly acknowledged as one of the important parts of the elite boxing jigsaw and it was then that he successfully applied for Irish citizenship.
Inevitably, after every fight in London, Zaur walks through the media zone before the boxers and Walsh arrive, a smile and a cheery wave of his hand indicating that he’s not the one for talking. Now living in Bray, Co Wicklow his knowledge comes from being a five-time ex-Georgian champion. Georgia’s loss, Ireland’s gain.