Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

Belfast coach Harry Hawkins plays role in African glory story

Two-time Ulster champion Sean Duffy.
Two-time Ulster champion Sean Duffy

Inside the Commonwealth Games athletes' village, Harry Hawkins' thick Belfast accent has been working overtime with the Mozambique boxing team. The voice that could once be heard in the ears of local professional boxers is overseeing African amateurs.

The Holy Trinity man led the former Portuguese colony to its first international boxing medal when Maria Machongua won her second round battle with Keneilwe Rakhudu on Wednesday.

The 21-year-old Mozambique national champion, assured of a place on the lightweight division podium, could not extend her impressive run to a final with Australian Shelley Watts.

Hawkins was unfortunate to miss out on a coaching role with the Northern Ireland Commonwealth Games squad.

After being overlooked for the position, the west Belfast native says he wasn't prepared to give up on other boxers.

"I don't owe anyone in boxing anything, so the chance to go to the Games with Mozambique was great for me," he said.

Hawkins was asked to consider taking the Mozambique role after coaching Bernaldo Marime.

When Marime (born on the outskirts of Maputo) became the Irish U-18 title-holder last year, interest in his achievements was made most obvious by the Mozambique Government's ministry of sport.

Having made tactical adjustments to Marime's aggressive, front footed style, Hawkins had hoped for a meeting with two-time Ulster champion Sean Duffy.

That match must wait as a difficult opening contest and controversial officiating prevented Marime from progressing beyond the preliminary stage of the 64kg light welterweight division.

Similarly, Juliano Maquina and Augusto Mathule also lost out in their first round light flyweight and welterweight contests.

Hawkins insists their performances were enough to merit officials favour.

"They (Mozambique) were never getting the decisions. They haven't got a referee, a judge or a technical officer so they are always going to be mistreated."

Having kept one eye on the progress of the NI team, Hawkins will be pleased but in creating his own piece of history at the Games, he won't have been forgotten.

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