Ireland will have at least three boxers at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Darren O’Neill, John Joe Nevin and Michael Conlan qualified for the 30th Olympiad by virtue of reaching the quarter-finals at the World Championships and Olympic qualifiers in Baku, Azerbaijan today.
But Joe Ward and the St Michael’s Athy pair of David Oliver Joyce and Roy Sheehan lost out just one win away from booking their tickets for the London Games.
Tipperary super-heavyweight Con Sheehan also lost today after he was retired in round three versus Italy’s Roberto Cammerelle. The Italian claimed gold at the 2008 Olympics and is a two-time AIBA World champion.
Conlan staged a magnificent comeback to beat French 2008 Olympian and 2007 AIBA World bronze medalist, Nordine Ouabaali. The Belfast flyweight was trailing 6-4 at the end
of the first but leveled the bout at 11-11 going into the third before racking up a 20-17 verdict, his third win in Baku against quality opposition.
The St John Bosco BC ace will meet current European champion, Andrew Selby of Wales, in Wednesday’s quarter-final.
Round scoring: R1, 4-6. R2: 7-5. R3, 9-6 (20-17)
Meanwhile, David Oliver Joyce produced an heroic display only to cruelly lose out in the last few seconds to a harsh public warning.
Joyce was locked at 30-30 with India’s Jai Bhagwan when he was penalised for pushing with four seconds remaining and ceded two points, a decision that handed Bhagwan victory and a place at the 2012 Olympics.
Sheehan, who has bravely fought back into contention for a place on the Irish side after being out for over two years with hand injuries, also left everything in the ring but was on the wrong end of an 11-7 verdict versus Egidijus Kavaliauskas of Lithuania in the welterweight class.
Twenty-two-year-old Nevin, who was the youngest member of the Irish 2008 Olympic squad, booked his ticket for London after earning a count back decision over Mongolian bantamweight Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu following an 18-18 tie.
Nevin, who took standing counts in the first and second rounds, was trailing by two points going into the third but fought back magnificently to level the contest at 18-18 before having his hand raised in triumph on accepted scores.
He’ll now face Orzubek Shayimov of Uzbekistan in the quarter-finals tomorrow, two years after he claimed bronze at the 2009 AIBA World Championships in Milan.
Round scoring: R1, 4-4. R2, 7-9. R3, 7-5 (18-18) c/b
(No count back scores are available at this time).
O’Neill, who is a roommate with Nevin in Baku, qualified for London with a well deserved 19-12 victory over Mladen Manev of Bulgaria.
The Kilkenny southpaw, who beat Manev 6-0 en route to silver at the 2010 European Championships in Moscow, will meet Ryota Murata of Japan in the quarter-finals tomorrow.
O’Neill is the second Irish middleweight to qualify for the Olympic Games in-a-row. The late Darren Sutherland represented Ireland at the 2008 Games in Beijing where he won a bronze medal in the middleweight class.
Round scoring. R1 6-4. R2 7-5. R3 6-3 (19-12)
Earlier today, Joe Ward agonisingly lost out on a place at the Olympics after being edged out on a countback versus Ehsan Rouzbahani of Iran.
The current European light-heavyweight champion and Rouzbahani were tied at 15-15 at the end of the three rounds but the Iranian got the nod on accepted scores.
Both boxers received public warnings for holding in the second and third rounds by Uzbekistani referee Dahodir Jumaniyazov. The first frame ended level at 4-4 but Rouzbahini was 12-8 up going into the third.
Ward won the third 7-3 to tie the bout at 15-15, but Rouzbahini was handed a ticket for the 2012 London Games on a count back.
Round scoring: R1, 4-4. R2, 8-4. R3, 3-7 = 15-15
(No count back score are available at this time).
"I’m really, really disappointed. I just can’t believe that I’ve been beaten. Four of the judges had me winning (in the last round) and one judge had me losing and I lost on a count back. It’s devastating, said Ward.
"I wasn’t stepping back as usual, counter punching. I don’t know what really happened, what came over me at that time.
"That definitely destroyed the fight, added Ward in relation to his public warning. "I didn’t deserve it. He was doing most of the holding and pulling."
Meanwhile, Ward, Joyce and Roy Sheehan will qualify for London if the opponents that beat them today reach the light-heavy, welter and lightweight finals.
Sixty four places at the London Olympics were won in Baku today.
2011 AIBA World Men’s Championships Baku, Azerbaijan