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Brendan Irvine is assured historic bronze at Baku Games

By Jonathan Bradley

Published 23/06/2015

Pack a punch: Brendan Irvine (right) lands a blow en route to victory over Salman Alizada
Pack a punch: Brendan Irvine (right) lands a blow en route to victory over Salman Alizada

Boxer Brendan Irvine secured Ireland's first ever medal at the inaugural European Games in Baku yesterday.

The Belfast light-flyweight produced a stunning display to book his place in the semi-finals with a split-decision victory over top seed Salman Alizada and is now guaranteed at least a bronze medal.

Fighting in front of a partisan crowd, the judges all gave the opening round to the home favourite who won the European title in 2011.

However, the St. Paul's man came back tremendously and after landing a flurry of shots forced Alizada onto the back foot in the second.

One judge somehow sided against Irvine for the round but he dominated the deciding third and the final scorecards read 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.

Speaking after the bout, Irvine said: "I'm buzzing after the win. It's a proud moment for me. He came forward a lot in the first round and I had to step it up in the second and third.

"The whole experience here is fantastic - the competition, the training, the food and being part of it all. I'm really enjoying it and I'm very proud to get to the semi-finals."

The 19-year-old will now face Dmytro Zamatayev at 3.00pm tomorrow afternoon for a place in the final but he admitted that he has little knowledge of the man he will meet in the ring.

While Alizada is familiar to Northern Irish boxing fans - the Azeri was beaten by Belfast fighter Ryan Burnett in the 2010 Olympic Youth final and Paddy Barnes at the 2013 European Championships - Zamatayev is a more unfamiliar prospect.

"I don't know much about my next opponent," Irvine admitted. "I'll just stay focused and stick to my boxing."

The youngest man in the Ireland squad had Billy Walsh and Zaur Antia in his corner and the former was pleased with how his fighter adapted when his dreams of landing a medal seemed to be slipping away inside Baku's Crystal Hall.

"Brendan was getting hit on the way back out and we had to change tactics for rounds two and three. He was absolutely superb," said Walsh (below with Irvine).

Fellow Belfast man Sean McComb can emulate Irvine's feat today (10.15am) if he can overcome Yasin Yilmaz of Turkey.

The lightweight earned his place in the quarter-finals after taking all three rounds from Italian Donato Cosenza on Saturday.

Five other boxers from the Irish team will also be in the ring today, including Katie Taylor.

The five-time world champion and Olympic gold medallist will meet Sweden's Ida Lundbald at 8.45am this morning after comfortably disposing of her old rival Denista Eliseeva of Bulgaria

Also seeking to secure a place in the semis today are Darren O'Neill, Adam Nolan, Dean Walsh and Michael O'Reilly but Cavan BC flyweight Ceire Smith and Tipperary native Dean Gardiner were both forced to settle for a place in the top eight after they tasted defeat yesterday.

Flyweight Smith lost a split-decision (39-37, 39-37, 37-39) to Russia's Salana Sagatavea in what was an engaging contest.

Gardiner, fighting as a super heavyweight, lost to Tony Yoka of France with all three judges scoring the fight 29-28.

Elsewhere in Baku, Donegal siblings Sam and Chloe Magee won their opening contest in the badminton mixed doubles after overcoming Czech pair Jakub Bitman and Alzbeta Basova by two games to one.

Earlier in the day, Sam had lost alongside brother Joshua in the men's doubles to Boe Mathias and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark.

Nicola Adams and Qais Ashfaq secured boxing medals for Great Britain, with Adams overcoming Bulgaria's experienced Stoyka Petrova and bantamweight Ashfaq an impressive winner over Omar El-Hag of Germany.

Adams has the wind in her sails after breezing past Petrova, who is the last fighter to beat Adams at the European Championships in Bucharest last year.

Adams will box for a place in the final when she faces enthusiastic Turk Elif Coskun in their last-four women's flyweight clash.

She said: "It's shame this wasn't a final because I think it would have been really nice for the crowd to see, but I've still got to treat every opponent as if it's a final."

Belfast Telegraph

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