World, European and Commonwealth Games champion Amy Broadhurst was the biggest name to taste defeat at the elite Irish Championships in Dublin when she was beaten by Grainne Walsh of Tullamore on a decision tied 3-2 in the 66 kg division.
It was a tight competition throughout with Broadhurst, who moved up a weight class in an attempt to qualify for the Paris Olympics, lacking her usual sparkle and was caught too many times by medalist Walsh European bronze medal in 2019.
Both women knew the result was too close to announce and neither was celebrated at the bell. When the decision was announced, Walsh leapt into the air as Broadhurst burst into tears and was inconsolable as he left the arena.
It was one of 13 fights in the weight classes of the Paris 2024 Olympics, and fellow Commonwealth Games champion Michaela Walsh was the only boxer from Ulster to record a win.
Walsh showed all his experience, skill and fitness to take on a tenacious challenge from Kelsey Leonard at 57kg.
“It’s as good as the first title”
“It was all about performance. Obviously it’s a big year coming up and I stuck to the game plan that my coaches gave me and who doesn’t like to win,” Walsh said after won his 10th Irish title.
“It’s as good as the first one, but for me it’s just another tournament. I try to treat every tournament the same, whether it’s the Olympics or national championships. “
Although winning an Elite title does not guarantee selection for the European Games in Poland in June, which doubles as continental Olympic qualification, the experience of Belfast wife Walsh and Tokyo gold medalist Kellie Harrington and Aoife O’Rourke, also national title winners, will almost certainly see them selected.
Walsh added: “Whatever happens this year, my main objective is to qualify for Paris, and this is just a stepping stone towards that.”
Harrington strolled to his 10th title a unanimous decision over Zara Breslin in the lightweight decider but then gave no media interviews.
Broadhurst’s selection for Krakow, as well as that of Michaela’s younger brother Aidan, who lost in the semi-finals, will remain uncertain.
Aidan winner Dean Walsh went on to beat Belfast’s Jon McConnell at 71kg, but he still doesn’t have Aidan’s resume that includes that bronze medal in Tokyo.
Deep fryers beaten in the 50 kg final
Immaculata’s Caitlin Fryers was beaten by Daina Moorehouse at 50kg in a unanimous decision that flattered the Enniskerry boxer but the division was missing Carly McNaul through illness, and she beat Fryers and Moorehouse which left the Irish breeders more to think about.
Other Ulster losses were William J McCartan at super heavyweight and Clepson dos Santos at 51kg who faced three standing counts before succumbing to Sean Mari of Monkstown.
There was success in Ulster in the non-Olympic weight classes as Nicole Clyde of Antrim (52kg), Eugene McKeever (67kg) and Commonwealth champion Dylan Eagleson (54kg) all won.
Eagleson played Spanish bull matador Jorge Rogla Castanno to win his first-ever national title.
The stylish fighter from St Pauls has won every round against a former Spanish championship runner-up.
Then Eagleson confirmed that the Paris Olympics were still on his mind and that some “problems” in the build-up to the championships meant he couldn’t move up to 57kg, which is the closest Olympic weight and where the Commonwealth gold medalist Jude Gallagher missed out. out this week due to injury.
There is still a lot of uncertainty about what will happen this year.
The women’s world championships are scheduled for New Delhi in March and the men’s championships for Tashkent in May.
Both are under the control of the International Boxing Association, which is still suspended by the International Olympic Committee.
In December, the IBA under Russian Umar Kremlev voted to allow boxers from Russia and Belarus to resume competition, against the wishes of the IOC and the vast majority of other international sports federations due to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Some countries are already talking about a boycott. There is no decision yet on whether Ireland will send a team to either competition and that could be made by the Irish government and not the IABA.
This angered the IOC so much that for the first time they issued a statement shortly before Christmas stating that boxing in Paris could be in doubt due to the actions of the IBA. The sport is currently not on the slate for Los Angeles in 2028.
Boxing at the European Games is under the control of the IOC and will be where a large number of places will be won for Paris.
By June, hopefully, the focus will be on the inside of the ring and not the outside issues.
After these results, the Irish selection will be interesting.