World champion Lisa O’Rourke has withdrawn her name from the Irish championships, which begin in Dublin this weekend.
A relatively unknown 20-year-old when she stunned boxing last year by winning a light middleweight world gold medal, O’Rourke was originally entered for the 66kg weight division, where she would have been up against Ireland’s other current world champion and Irish Times Sportswoman of the Year, Amy Broadhurst.
However, O’Rourke’s name did not appear in Tuesday’s draw. Although no reason was officially given, with her hand still in a cast three weeks ago at the Sportswoman of the Year awards lunch, it seemed then like a long shot for the Castlerea boxer.
In an extravagant entry list for the elite competition, O’Rourke, who won her world title at the same world championships as Broadhurst in the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul, was entered in the 66kg weight category with two other European medallists.
Even without O’Rourke, this is likely to be the most competitive Irish championships in the history of women’s boxing
In addition, Grainne Walsh a European bronze medallist from 2019 in Minsk has also put her name forward to contest the 66kg division with an eye on Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualification.
Even without O’Rourke, it makes for one of the most competitive Irish championships in women’s boxing. Never before has the Irish championships had a world champion boxing off for the title with another European medallist in the same division, hoping to get the edge as an important year for the Olympic qualifying process begins.
Broadhurst, who has competed at 60kg and 63kg, will have to go up in weight while Walsh is probably a neat fit in the 66kg class.
The reasoning, for Broadhurst, who was Commonwealth, European and World champion in her breakout year in 2022, is to avoid direct competition with Kellie Harrington in the 60kg division. The 25-year-old Dundalk boxer was voted the best in the tournament at last year’s European Championships.
Unlike the European and world championships, Olympic boxing has space limitations as it faces the continual problem of gigantism and for Paris 2024 there are just six weight categories for women, 50kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 66kg and 75kg.
O’Rourke, when competing again has the option of going up in weight to 75kg, although she has said she does not want to have to box against her older sister Aoife, who has entered that weight division for the championships. Aoife is the current European champion and was also part of the historic women’s team that won seven European medals last year.
If Harrington can qualify for the Olympics and retain her title from Tokyo, she will do what Katie Taylor was unable to achieve in London and Rio
Harrington, a 2018 world champion, European champion from last year and the reigning Olympic champion from Tokyo has won all three of those titles at Katie Taylor’s old weight in the 60kg lightweight division. She faces the winner of Clodagh Greene and Zara Breslin in the Irish championships.
If Harrington can qualify for the Olympics and retain her title from Tokyo, she will do what Taylor was unable to achieve in London and Rio: become the first Irish boxer to win gold medals at two Olympic Games.
Paddy Barnes is the only boxer, male or female, to win successive Olympic medals, when he won bronze in Beijing 2008 and London 2012. Michael Conlan was on course to do the same, but was caught up in the refereeing scandal of Rio. His loss to Russian Vladimir Nikitin was later declared suspicious in a report.
Broadhurst meets Kaci Rock in her first bout at 66kg in the National Stadium, with the winner of that going up against Leanne Murphy or Walsh. Desmond faces Evelyn Ighard in her first match.