Lisa O’Rourke and Amy Broadhurst on brink of becoming world champions

Irish boxing duo both win their semi-final bouts at World Championships

It wasn't so long ago Katie Taylor was talking about breaking down barriers. And in a different way, she still was a few weeks ago in New York. Her words from the New Delhi World Championships of 2006, where she won her first gold medal, would have been filtered through the four-year-old ears of Lisa O'Rourke and by Amy Broadhurst just five years older.

Now the pair from Roscommon and Louth respectively are on the brink of echoing what Taylor achieved for the first time in China and Kellie Harrington did in 2018 by becoming world champions. Broadhurst and O'Rourke won their semi-finals in Istanbul in dramatically different ways within minutes of each other.

As good news goes in troubled Irish boxing these days, it was well timed and will be received with relief as the two became the only Irish women boxers outside Harrington and Taylor to medal at World Championship level.

They are also the first two women Irish boxers to make it to a world final at the same World Championships. For context, GB’s six athletes failed to make it into the last four.

Broadhurst’s win, which arrived 30 minutes before that of O’Rourke, came against Indian boxer Parveen with the 20-year-old from Roscommon then schooling a hometown favourite, Turkey’s Sema Caliskan, in the second Irish bout of the afternoon.

It is well known in boxing that to beat a local favourite in her own country takes a more convincing effort than it might in a neutral venue. But the younger of the two did just that in an exceptional display of clever distance boxing and some rough-and-tumble brawling.

Broadhurst relied on her stamina, strength and the heart she has shown so often to edge past her Indian opponent. The Dundalk 25-year-old began the bout well and looked stronger than her taller opponent as she typically took the fight to her.

Southpaw Broadhurst was the more aggressive in the first round stalking her opponent and holding the centre of the ring, as Parveen backed away trying to score with her jab.

The first round was scored a solid 5-0 to the Irish boxer, although Parveen picked up her tempo and began pushing forward at Broadhurst after the break.

Although not backing down, the Indian athlete was judged to have scored the better round and was given the second 3-2 by the five judges, throwing the fight into a final three minutes.

Again Parveen was using her left jab to good effect but again Broadhurst found the energy to pick it up and although there was a creeping hint of desperation from both fighters, the Irish boxer’s warring quality expressed itself in the final minute.

It was Broadhurst who finished the stronger, leaving a strong impression with the judges of a boxer on top.

Whichever way it breaks, it will be a lucrative day for both athletes. A win would give the pair $100,000 (about €95,000) each, with a silver medal earning $50,000 (about €48,000) in the first year of cash prizes in the sport.

O’Rourke, limber and athletic used the ring in her bout against Caliskan and not for a moment allowed the tempo to fall over the three rounds. In her first senior championships at international level and having turned 20 over the weekend, O’Rourke’s athleticism shone throughout the bout.

Although she lost the first round 3-2, her shot accuracy and placement had her in front from there on as she used the ring wisely, staggering Caliskan with a left shortly before the end of the second round.

The Turkish boxer realised she had ground to claw back in the final stanza but O’Rourke continued to fight with accuracy and freedom, no nerves whatsoever evident in her first World Championship semi-final.

When she returned to her corner after the nine-minute contest, the smiles on the faces of coaches Zaur Antia and John Conlan, former amateur world champion Michael's father, was telling enough. The judges agreed, all five giving the chance of a World Championship final to the Irish woman.

O'Rourke will now face Helena Panguane from Mozambique in the light middleweight final with Broadhurst set to face Imane Khelfi on the final day of the light welterweight division. The slick Algerian Khelfi came through against the Netherlands' Chelsey Heijnen, while Panguane beat Kazak Valentina Khalzova. Both bouts take place on Friday.

No Irish boxers outside lightweight Taylor with five world championship wins between 2006 and 2014; bantamweight Conlan with one gold medal win in Doha in 2015; and lightweight Harrington with one gold medal win in New Delhi in 2018, have been amateur world champions.

Profile: Lisa O’Rourke

The reigning European U-22 middleweight champion was a teenager when the World Championships began and turned 20 years old over last weekend.

She is the younger sister of Tokyo Olympian and 2019 European middleweight gold medal winner Aoife. It is the first senior tournament for the Castlerea native.

From the Olympic BC in Galway, O’Rourke is a former European Youth bronze medallist and has been part of Roscommon’s senior football panel since 2018. She has featured throughout their National League campaign this year. The Castlerea St Kevin’s midfielder scored a goal on her inter-county championship debut for the Rossies against Offaly in 2020.

Profile: Amy Broadhurst

The 25-year-old world finalist sprung into the greater public consciousness recently when she was invited to take part in sparring sessions with undisputed lightweight world professional champion Katie Taylor. Taylor name-checked her after she beat Amanda Serrano in Madison Square Garden.

In 2016, Broadhurst and her family competed in the fourth series of the popular RTÉ reality competition, Ireland's Fittest Family, and were mentored by former Camogie player Anna Geary. The southpaw boxes out of the Dealgan Boxing Club in Dundalk. She is a former European Championship bronze medal winner from 2019.