Harsh boxing lesson for Brendan Irvine in Rio

The 20-year-old beaten by Uzbek Shakhabidin Zoirov on a unanimous decision

Men’s flyweight 52kg round of 32 - Brendan Irvine versus Shakhobidin Zoirov. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Men’s flyweight 52kg round of 32 - Brendan Irvine versus Shakhobidin Zoirov. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

 

Ireland’s Brendan Irvine learned a harsh lesson in Olympic boxing when lost on a unanimous decision to Uzbek Shakhabidin Zoirov at the Riocentre Complex.

The 20-year-old flyweight possibly arrived in Rio a little soon in his career, having moved up from the 49kg weight division to 52kg in the last year.

There were no quibbles from the younger Irish boxer, who knew he was in for a tough fight from the beginning of the bout.

The unseeded Zoirov was stronger and more aggressive from the bell and immediately began landing with his left pushing Irvine back. By the end of the round Irvine was taking combinations on board as the fight lurched in favour of his opponent, the walk to his Irish corner after the first three minutes welcome relief.

While the Irishman did try to pick up the tempo in the second round, Zoirov, who didn’t make it to the quarterfinals in the last World Championships, had more power at his disposal and he used it.

There was little Irvine could do except bravely soldier on. While he gamely landed a decent right in the closing seconds, the round belonged to Zoirov, who scored from lefts and rights throughout with Irvine going to his seat at the end of it with a bloody nose.

“It was a great experience... you know, the Olympic Games, ” said Irvine. “I just lost to the better man on the day. I had a good game plan going into the fight but unfortunately I got caught with some stinging shots in the first round and I had to change it.

“I was always trailing from behind. I just had to dig deep and give it everything. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

“I watched a couple of fights of him and he was very explosive where I was a bit slow off the mark. He came out of the blocks flying. I just gave it everything. That’s all I could do.”

By the third round the Uzbek, who had comprehensively won the first two, had it all under control and when Irvine pressed he picked up the tempo scoring freely. It was a tough Olympic experience for the Belfast boxer, who will fill the 52kg weight more comfortably in the coming years.

“I’ve only moved up (to 52kg) not even a year yet, so just to get out here alone is a great experience for me,” added Irvine, who qualified for Rio at the European Qualification tournament earlier this year. “It does take time to build into that weight. I think in four years’ time I’ll be perfect for the weight.”

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