Joe Ward and Jason Quigley into World Championship semis

Donegal middleweight records impressive unanimous victory over Zoltan Harsca, Moate man stops Russian in first round


If the emotional currency of Irish coach Billy Walsh is equilibrium and a clear mind you might say that on days like yesterday at the World Championships in Almaty, he earns his tenge.

There were polarised emotions in the Irish team as three dejected fighters left the draw and two others, 19-year-old Joe Ward and 22-year-old Jason Quigley, sought to evict the air of despondency that at intervals through the day crept over the Irish camp.

The manner in which both earned semi-final places were different but emphatically upbeat and in a way that adds another layer to boxing’s knack of building a winning tradition. Two in the semi-finals, it’s another first.

Ward continued his charging run from injury-prone, hexed teen prodigy to the man that shattered Russian hopes in the light heavyweight division, with Quigley’s breezy competence cooling the hopes of Hungary.

There Ireland might stand accused of selective bullying. Ward beat Norbert Harcsa a couple of days ago only for Quigley to bring down his older brother Zoltan yesterday.

Ward’s stopping of Russia’s Nikita Inavov took just two minutes 22 seconds, a deep laceration above the Russians left eye leaving the referee in no doubt. Ward faces second seed Cuban Julio Peraza tomorrow for a place in the final.

Shaping the match
What will please him is that he was the one shaping the match, his heavy left backhand downloading on Ivanov’s body while consistently pushing him backwards and producing the cleaner shots in the flurried exchanges.

The incident itself looked innocuous and Ward still doesn’t know how the cut occurred, whether it was a head clash or the initial blow that forced Ivanov to career down onto Ward’s head.

“I was very comfortable in there,” said Ward. “I knew I had to meet him every time and thank God it didn’t take too much out of me. It was a punch that caught him as he came in forward but he fell forward and I’m not sure if the punch did the damage or my head. I’ll take it any way. I need a bit of luck.

“I’m going to enjoy myself now for the evening and concentrate from tomorrow. It’s a huge achievement and I’m enjoying every moment of it. European gold medal at 17 and at least a bronze medal in the World Championships at 19, what more can I ask for. I’m so proud.

“To be honest after the European Championships (knee injury) I sat down and I was thinking to myself what am I going to do because I didn’t really think I was going to make it to the World Championships. I said I’d get back up and give it a hell of a shot to get back on the team and hopefully make it for the worlds and here I am.”

For some years Quigley had been watching Darren O’Neill win the Irish title and take the middleweight vest. This year for the first time he punched through and moved from being a European youth champion into senior, a decision like no other that reinforces the apprentice days are over.

For some boxers the step-up takes adjustment. But within a matter of months Quigley was the European champion, beating Romania’s Bogdan Juratoni in the June final in Minsk this year.

Day of celebration
Yesterday was another step in the same direction for the ever-rising middleweight in what was a day of celebration in Donegal and one of calamity for the older Harcsa Zoltan after a unanimous decision for the Irishman.

It’s all new road for the 22-year-old and as the months fly by he gives the impression that they are never going to overtake him. Along with his busy style that endears him to the judges, Quigley showed poise against Harsca, something required when he meets Russia’s Artem Chebotarev next.

In the second round a swinging right came across and Harcsa was on the canvas. It wasn’t as cold a knock down as Barnes the previous day but Quigley’s reaction was curiously mature. He didn’t dive in and try to finish him off put kept up a relentless tempo that continued to overwhelm.

“I didn’t panic. I didn’t rush in to take him out. You have to be careful and smart and I think that’s what I was in there today,” he said.

“Now it’s the first time it’s hit me that I’ve won a medal at the World Championships,” he said shortly after winning.

“It’s a dream come true of mine. A year or two ago I’d been watching Darren O’Neil and the likes of the boys. Khytrov, the guy I beat in the Europeans (semi-final), you know I’d seen them here and I’m saying jeez look at those boys fighting in the World Championships, that’s what I want to do. Now I’m here and I’m medalling here.”