CATHAL O'GRADY's Olympic challenge lasted just 80 eventful seconds in Atlanta last night when the referee had to rescue him from further punishment at the hands of New Zealander Garth da Silva.
O'Grady was visibly shaken and needed running repairs to his face after being caught by a tremendous left hook to the chin by Da Silva in the first serious heavyweight bout.
The irony was that, in a contest in which neither boxer made too much pretence at defence, O'Grady was at one stage 6-2 ahead on points after catching the New Zealander with some good southpaw lefts.
Had he opted to keep the contest at long range it is possible that he would have won without too much stress. Instead, he chose to mix it with disastrous consequences. Da Silva, a relatively short stocky man, had already been only marginally off target when he suddenly unleashed the punch on the Irishman's unprotected face. At least three mores shots appeared to go in before Da Silva pushed O'Grady over and there was a resounding thump as the Irishman's head struck the canvas.
At that point the referee might reasonably have stopped the contest. But, after deducting a point from Da Silva's score for deliberate pushing, he ordered them to box on.
Remarkably, for a man who didn't appear to have recovered from the original punch, O'Grady managed to score twice more to stretch his advantage to 6-3 before Da Silva piled in with the cluster of punches which ended the contest.
O'Grady, clearly taken aback by the fury of it all, was counted on his feet and then having looked into his eyes, the referee correctly led him back to his corner.
It was a traumatic experience for the 20-year-old Kildare man, but when you gamble on stopping everything that is thrown at you with your head, in the hope of positioning yourself for a big punch, the risks are obvious.
O'Grady was too distressed to come to the post-bout press conference, but the Irish coach, Mickey Hawkins, described it as and unlucky experience".
Cathal was doing well, kicking off some good shots, but then unfortunately he got caught," he said. "It was a bad start to the championships for the team, but things will get better," promised Hawkins.