Ward's hopes of competing at Games fade


OLYMPIC GAMES BOXING:HOPES of participating in the London Olympic Games in July are all but gone for Irish light-heavyweight champion Joe Ward. The Moate boxer, who was controversially beaten by a local fighter Bahran Muzaffer in the Olympic Qualifier in Trabzon in April had hoped a mechanism called the Tripartite Commission could offer him a wildcard place.

However, sources in Lausanne where the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the International Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) have their headquarters, have said the Irish teenager will not be one of the names chosen by the commission.

The idea when the commission was first set up was to allow nations with little or no representation in the Olympic Games an alternative route to participation and was based on the principle of universal representation as specified in the Olympic Charter. Invitation places can only be allocated to countries with an average of six or less athletes at the last two editions of the Games.

As Ireland has six boxers in a team of over 50 qualified for London – five males and Katie Taylor – it is believed the commission’s stance was that Ireland and Ward fell outside their criteria. Ward, whose world ranking has slipped in recent months from three to five is the European senior champion, a title he won in 2011 when he was 17-years-old.

Another issue that was put to the commission was that because boxing is an aggressive contact sport, an element of danger existed if the nominated individual was of insufficient standard to compete against European and World champions. That would have mitigated in favour of the Irishman but appears not to have swayed the decision makers.

One glimmer of hope is the International Federation can also make a recommendation for inclusion. However indications are the heavily-politicised decision-making process may also end in disappointment. Apparently there are two unofficial lists in circulation in Lausanne from the IABA, one which has Ward’s name included and the other which does not. It was suggested by the source Ward’s expectations should not lean too heavily on being nominated by the governing body of the sport.

Ward was the youngest on the Irish team that recently travelled to France for a pre-Olympic Games camp. Irish coach Billy Walsh had kept him in training with the other qualified boxers in the hope a mechanism could be found to have him included in the team. Part of that feeling came from the sense of injustice that lingered after Ward was judged to have lost 18-15 in his second bout in Trabzon to Muzaffer.

At the time outraged Irish Boxing officials lodged an official complaint, which was unsuccessful as organisers determined that no rules were seen to have been broken in arriving at the verdict. Such an outcome was always likely as boxing results are rarely overturned. Having had time to analyse the fight on video afterwards Walsh remained bemused at the decision. “Joe landed 12 punches but only got four points,” he said at the time. “The Turk landed four, but got six points. I thought Joe did all the cleaner scoring. But that’s what you’re up against. You’re here and there’s a partisan crowd. Even if Joe’s hitting sometimes they are pressing the wrong button.”

No European team that attended the tournament in Trabzon qualified more than two boxers for London, while the hosts Turkey qualified with six fighters. They won four gold medals from 10, while no other nation won more than one. Before the tournament had finished an Irish boxing official had delivered a letter to the president of the International Federation, Dr Ching-Kuo Wu. But it all seems to have been to no avail.