No bronze for Steven Donnelly as Moroccan takes split decision

Wholehearted Irish boxer edged by welterweight world champion Mohamed Rabii

Ireland's Steven Donnelly narrowly lost his bronze medal bout against welterweight world champion Mohamed Rabii with the Puerto Rican judge siding with the Irishman in a split decision.

Donnelly with a bruise under his left eye from the previous fight brought his usual elusive style to the fight in the Riocentre Complex. But Rabii, an excellent counter puncher was more conspicuously landing and dominated the centre of the ring from the outset.

The top seed opened the bout aggressively with Donnelly using his jab and landing scoring shots. But the Moroccan was hitting harder and as the Irishman came on to him unloaded accurate lefts and rights.

Using the ring well the Ballymena boxer forced Rabii to work for his scores but was caught with an eye catching right at the end of the round with all three judges scoring it 10-9 against him.


More solid right hands from the Moroccan as Donnelly sought an opening again gave the sense that he was chasing the fight and when the second round went against him, it seemed all but lost.

“I gave it my all in there it,” said Donnelly afterwards. “I thought it was very close and then in the last round I tripped on my left foot and he gave me a count.

“That gave him momentum and it probably gave the judges momentum as well. I gave it my all. I came away from these Games very proud. Nobody expected me to get this far only myself, the club coaches and the Irish coaches I would have loved to bring home a medal back home to every but it was not to be.”

Officially Donnelly was knocked down twice in the third round, once after a Rabii left that hit home and again at the end of the fight. For the final count at the end Donnelly was moving backwards and was tagged but without any power and when the referee began to count Donnelly turned to him in disgust.

In the end two judges went with Rabii and the Puerto Rican with Donnelly in a 2-1 decision.

“I thought I maybe should have got the first round,” added Donnelly. “He is the world champion and you really have to impress to get it. No regrets at all I lifted the spirits in the camp twice I did great and I will continue to do great in this sport. I can hold my head high.”

“I had only one day’s rest but the eye didn’t bother me I was disappointed with the result. But I gave it a one hundred percent and you can’t ask for more.

Donnelly was sent home early from the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010. And for the next two years his life went into a downward spiral. His club coach in Ballymena’s All Saints boxing club, Gerry Hamill, refused to give up on him and he slowed made his way back into the sport and the Irish team.

“Redemption is not about winning I came back from where I was and I proved myself there against the World champion and the number one in the world,” he said.

London Olympics medallists Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor are the only members of the eight-strong Irish boxing team still involved in the Games.

Medal hopes Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward were among four Irish fighters who bowed out on the opening week while their team-mate Michael O'Reilly was sent home from Rio after failing a drugs test.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times