Zaur Antia’s commitment is welcome in turbulent times

It’s been a difficult few months for Irish boxing but Antia remains an important part

The appointment of Zaur Antia as Head Coach to the Irish boxing team until after the next Olympic Games in Tokyo has been broadly welcomed and arrives as the latest review of the sport has landed on the desks in Sport Ireland.

The review is expected to be made public after Christmas. But the burly Georgian's signature comes following offers from the national boxing associations of Azerbaijan, Saudi Arabia and Canada – now par for the course for Irish coaches.

Antia will be given the title Head Coach until 2021, having first joined the High Performance team in 2003. After Billy Walsh left to take up a position in the USA boxing program late last year, Antia stepped in, initially with the men but for the last 18 months also worked with the women's boxing teams.

He has now settled in Ireland and lives in Bray, Co Wicklow. Antia is regarded as one of the best technical coaches in the world and his signature was welcomed by among others, double Olympic medallist Paddy Barnes and middleweight World Champion, Andy Lee.


“I am delighted on both a personal and professional basis to commit to Irish boxing. Ireland has been home for my family and I for the last 13 years and I am delighted that we are in a position to stay,” said Antia.

"I am also very excited about remaining part of the Irish High Performance system. We are, as is normal after any Olympic Games, in a period of transition but there remains a significant amount of talent and potential in the system as evidenced by the medals won by our team at the world youth championships in Russia last week."

Antia's decision to stay in Ireland is one of the good news stories to come out of Irish boxing for months and arrives after a calamitous Olympic Games including a positive drugs test resulting in a boxer Michael O'Reilly being sent home and the physical assault of an Irish minor girl in a hotel in Germany during a representative trip.

Antia must also start the process of rebuilding the Irish Olympic team after the departures of Barnes, Michael Conlan and Katie Taylor to the professional ranks.

“I am confident that with the right support and investment we can deliver future success,” added Antia. I am also looking forward to becoming more involved with the women’s programme and feel that the medals we won at the recent World and European Championships is evidence of the strides made in women’s boxing here.”

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times