Joe Ward advances to European Championship final
Brendan Irvine and Kurt Walker have to settle for bronze after semi-final defeats
RIO 2016 Olympian Joe Ward is on course for his third European title in the Kharkiv, Ukraine, but Antrim’s Brendan Irvine and Kurt Walker had to settle for bronze after losing their semi-finals yesterday.
Ward, the defending champion and No. 1 seed in the light-heavy class, beat Italy’s Valentino Manfredonia in Friday’s 81kg semi-final on a comprehensive unanimous decision (30-27,30-27,30-27,30-25,30-27).
The Westmeath southpaw said before the fight that if he performed then the Brazil-born Italian orthodox didn’t have a chance. Ward duly delivered , although Manfredonia was limping after the first round from a leg injury.
The incident occurred after Ward got the better of a massive exchange near the end of the first. Manfredonia, a cut opened near his right eye, appeared to be crying in is corner as his seconds applied an ice pack to his knee. The Italian, however, bravely fought on.
Ward will now meet Russia’s Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, who beat Croatia’s Damir Plantic yesterday, in today’s final looking to become the first Irish male boxer (Katie Taylor has won six) to claim three European titles.
Facing a Russian in a major final is unlikely to faze the Irish champion either, as he beat Russia’s Nikita Ivanov in the 2011 decider to become one of the youngest international boxers of all time to win European gold aged just 17.
“The plan all along is to win the gold medal in the Ukraine. That’s what I’m out here for. Gold is always my target,” said Ward.
Meanwhile, Irvine, the number four seed in the flyweight class, dropped a unanimous (30-27,29-28,29-28,29-28,29-28) decision to Dean Farrell, the English orthodox impressing with his high work rate.
Irvine detonated the heavier punches in the opening two rounds, but Farrell, whilst missing with the first two shots of his three-punch combinations consistently found the target with the third, the sting in the tail.
Irvine upped the pace in the last frame. A massive left could have changed the course of the fight, but Farrell slipped the shot en route to upgrading to silver.
Farrell, whose dad is Irish, boxed out of the St Anne’s club in Mayo for a period and lost out on a split decision to Willie Donoghue in the Irish U-18 final at Dublin’s National Stadium in 2015. A few months later he began boxing in England.
Walker lost to Mykola Butsenko, who lost to Ireland’s John Joe Nevin in the 2013 European final. The Ukrainian was awarded a 30-27 decision across the board, a generous verdict given that Walker worked hard throughout.
The defeat means Ireland has relinquished the European title it has held for the last four years, courtesy of Nevin in 2013 and Michael Conlan in 2015. Today’s finals begin at 2pm (Irish time)