Joe Ward moves within two wins of the Olympics

Light-heavyweight beats Ukranian Kyyzhniak in opening World Championships bout

Joe Ward won his opening bout in the World Championships in Doha, moving him within two wins of Olympic qualification. Photograph: Inpho

Joe Ward won his opening bout in the World Championships in Doha, moving him within two wins of Olympic qualification. Photograph: Inpho

 

Joe Ward is two victories away from Olympic qualification after winning his opening bout at the World Championships in Doha on Friday.

The Moate light-heavyweight recorded a 3-0 unanimous-decision win over Ukrainian world No 17 Oleksandr Kyyzhniak, but Belfast’s Seán McComb was left heartbroken by another close call against No 3 lightweight seed Albert Selimov.

Ward now joins Michael Conlan, Michael O’Reilly and Brendan Irvine in quarter-final action on Saturday, but Olympic qualification varies depending on weight categories.

European champion Ward faces a fairly clear task as he must reach the World 81kg final if he is to book his place at the Rio Games next summer and he will next meet Mikhail Dauhaliavets of Belarus on Saturday following his win over Kyyzhniak.

Ward’s coach Eddie Bolger, who was in his corner in Doha, backed his man to build on his opening win, despite a lethargic final round. “He [DAUHALIAVETS]is another tough guy and he’ll be a carbon-copy of his first opponent,” said Bolger.

“He needed to get that first one out of the way, there was a little bit of nervous energy but the cobwebs are gone now.”

The 2013 World bronze medallist knocked Kyyzhniak’s gumshield out in the second round after starting strongly, but Ward took his foot off the gas in the last round before recording a 29-28 win on all three cards.

Ward admitted he lacked focus towards the end of the fight, but explained: “It was fairly tough, overall it was a good performance. The first two rounds I was very in control, the last round I knew I was winning the fight and I took my foot off the gas a wee bit.”

The Moate fighter’s success brings Ireland’s quarter-final tally to four and O’Reilly faces arguably the most difficult test on Saturday against world middleweight champion Zhanubek Alimhanuly, who defeated Jason Quigley in the 2013 final.

Irvine takes on Cuban Joahnys Argilagos, who the Belfast light-flyweight defeated last year, while bantamweight Conlan meets European Games Bronze medallist Tayfur Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

McComb failed to reach the last eight despite a near-flawless performance against former world champion Selimov, who previoulsy defeated the Irishman in a close-fought semi-final during last summer’s European Games.

Their rematch went much the same way, McComb edged out on a 2-1 split decision, 30-27, 28-29, 28-29.

Ireland’s technical coach Zaur Antia praised McComb’s performance, claiming: “Selimov won because of his name… Seán thew more punches and hit him more.”

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