Steven Donnelly's title bid boosted by upset
Steven Donnelly will bid to land his first Irish Elite title this Friday on the back of one of the best performances of his career in Dublin's National Stadium.
Welterweight Donnelly, of the All Saints club in Ballymena, caused an upset when he outpointed Beijing Olympian John Joe Joyce of St Michael's Athy on a split decision and now looks ahead to a battle with defending champion Adam Nolan.
Joyce, a former European bronze medallist, found Ulster champion Donnelly too sharp from the opening bell on Saturday night and the Ballymena man's coach Gerry Hamill knew right away that his protégé was on course for victory.
Hamill said: "I had done my homework, we had our tactics for Joyce and they worked a treat. Steven did exactly what I told him and it worked and I could see the shock on the face of Joyce and his coach Dominic O'Rourke at the end of the first round.
"I wouldn't say it was Steven's best performance, that was last April when he beat the top American Rashidi Ellis. But still, it was a big win for Steven and even though it was a split decision, I knew that he had won and told him at the final bell before they announced the decision."
Donnelly must now prepare for an even harder task against London Olympian Nolan, and coach Hamill has no doubt he can deliver another upset.
Hamill added: "Nolan's an awkward guy, a good boxer so we know it's going to be tough but we'll have our tactics ready and I have no doubt Steven can take the title."
Overall, six Ulster boxers will be gunning for Irish glory on Friday night, including a bantamweight clash between defending champion Michael Conlan of St John Bosco and Holy Family's Tyrone McCullagh, who had a split decision win over Ulster champion Kurt Walker on Friday night.
Heavyweight Steven Ward of Monkstown was an impressive semi-final winner, taking a unanimous decision over Krys Sikora of St Francis.
East Belfast's Luke Wilton was stopped in the second round of his non-title fight with British bantamweight champion Lee Haskins in Bristol on Saturday night.
Wilton, a natural flyweight, had stepped up two divisions at less than 48 hours notice and simply found the weight difference too much to handle as Haskins dropped him a minute into the second round with a barrage of blows before a chopping right hand brought a second knockdown, leading the referee to call a halt.
Irish Elite finals: 49kg Hughie Myers (Ryston) v Paddy Barnes (Holy Family), 52kg Adam Courtney (St Marys) v Chris Phelan (Ryston/Defence Forces), 56kg Michael Conlan (St John Bosco) v Tyrone McCullagh (Holy Family), 60kg Sean McComb (Holy Trinity) v David Oliver Joyce (St Michael's Athy), 64kg Michael Nevin (Portlaoise) v Dean Walsh (St Josephs/St Ibars), 69kg Adam Nolan (Bray) v Stephen Donnelly (All Saints), 75kg Darren O'Neill (Paulstown) v Michael O'Reilly (Portlaoise), 81kg Joe Ward (Moate) v Matthew Tinker (St Francis), 91kg Gary Sweeney (Olympic) v Stephen Ward (Monkstown, Antrim), 91+kg Con Sheehan (Clonmel) v Dean Gardiner (Clonmel).