Darren O’Neill confident of claiming fifth Elite boxing title

London 2012 Olympian faces Athlone heavyweight Ken Okungbowa after defeating John Joe McDonagh

Darren O’Neill, who defeated Dubliner John Joe McDonagh in Saturday’s 91kg semi-final at Dublin’s National Stadium to reach his ninth Elite final. Photograph: Inpho

Darren O’Neill, who defeated Dubliner John Joe McDonagh in Saturday’s 91kg semi-final at Dublin’s National Stadium to reach his ninth Elite final. Photograph: Inpho

 

London 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill believes he has enough in his arsenal to claim his fifth Elite title at the expense of towering Athlone heavyweight Ken Okungbowa on Friday night.

O’Neill, who has moved up to heavyweight after winning four belts at middleweight, beat Dubliner John Joe McDonagh in Saturday’s 91kg semi-final at Dublin’s National Stadium to reach his 9th Elite final.

Okungbowa decisioned Ulster’s Stephen McMonagle in the corresponding last-four fight to set up the three-rounder with the 2011 European Elite silver medallist.

O’Neill said: “Ken is a big, strong man. You can see that just by his definition. It is going to be a test for me in the sense that I’m moving up to heavyweight for first time. He’s going to physically pressure me.

“He has long arms, I have enough boxing to navigate my way around that. He’s a big man and I don’t want to stand and trade, I think that I have enough in my arsenal to combat him.

“John Joe was tricky enough. I think some some people may have underestimated him, I definitely didn’t. I didn’t box my best but at the same time I had enough in the tank to get the job done.”

Final progress

Roy SheahanMatthew TinkerMyles Casey

Tinker was beaten in the 2014 final by Joe Ward, who has relinquished the light-heavy belt because he has inked a deal with AIBA Pro Boxing.

“We entered two in the Championships and we have two in the finals. You can’t do any better than that at this point, but the job is only half done now,” said coach Ken Moore of the St Francis club in Limerick.

World number eight Claire Grace, meanwhile, will meet Irish Youth Olympic Christina Desmond in the women’s 69kg decider after beating Katie Taylor’s Bray BC team-mate Jessica Duffy.

Defending middleweight champion Michael O’Reilly, Stephen Broadhurst, Dean Gardiner and Kelly Harrington also had their hands raised in victory on Saturday to progress to next weekend’s finals.

Meantime, Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan won and lost on unanimous decisions for Italia Thunder versus the Baku Fires in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) in Baku, Azerbaijan on Saturday.

Barnes beat Magomed Ibiyev, but Conlan lost to Magomed Gurbanov. Seventeen places for the Rio 2016 Olympics are directly up for grabs in the WSB this season.

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