Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth Games: World-class boxers Barnes, Conlan, Coyle and Donnelly can open the medal floodgates

By Steven Beacom

It could be the joy of six for Northern Ireland boxers in Glasgow tonight. That's how many of our fighters will step into the ring at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre aiming to secure a Commonwealth Games medal.

Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan are in quarter-final action and they will be joined by Connor Coyle and Steven Donnelly, while history-making Michaela Walsh and Alana Audley-Murphy will also be throwing some leather, knowing that victory will guarantee at least a bronze medal.

Belfast woman Walsh was in stunning form on Monday night when she became the first female to win a boxing contest in the Commonwealth Games.

Poor Thessa Dumas from Mauritius didn't know what hit her as Walsh produced a devastating display, which had the crowd purring in the flyweight contest.

Today Walsh faces Jamaica's Joy Sarah Rae and is confident of delivering again.

"I don't see why I can't go all the way," said the Holy Family club member.

Audley-Murphy, having received a bye through the last 16 phase, makes her entrance this afternoon in the lightweight division against Valerian Spicer, an experienced performer from Dominica, who comfortably defeated New Zealand's Alexis Pritchard yesterday.

Like Michaela, 28-year-old Alana is a groundbreaker herself. In 2001 she fought Katie Taylor when the pair were teenagers. It was the first licensed women's bout in Ireland, and the two have been close friends ever since.

The Belfast woman, who fights out of the Eastside Boxing Club, was in London to see Taylor win Olympic gold in 2012 and would love the same colour of medal in Glasgow. The women have the support of their Team NI male counterparts.

Londonderry middleweight Coyle said: "I think women's boxing is brilliant. There are a lot of great female boxers and they should get the opportunity to perform like everybody else. Michaela and Alana have a lot of support from us. Everybody respects what they do."

Coyle is scheduled to be the last of Northern Ireland's six to strut his stuff tonight when he takes on South Africa's Siphiwe Lusizi.

Before then impressive 25-year-old welterweight Donnelly will face Canada's Custio Clayton.

The Ballymena man said: "I am confident because I've trained hard for this. I try not to put too much pressure on myself but it's always there. I believe I have the talent to do what is required."

Olympic bronze medallists Conlan and Barnes aren't short on self-belief either.

Barnes was in blistering form in his first fight in Glasgow and is intent on getting better throughout. Tonight the north Belfast man should have far too much for Charles Keama from Papua New Guinea in the last eight of the light flyweight class.

Bantamweight Conlan, having disposed of chief rival Shiva Thapa from India in the last 16, is now a huge favourite to win gold.

Conlan will open the boxing session today against Uganda's Bashir Nasir.

It will be the first time his family have been here to support him. Conlan was so confident of success that he advised them to come over from the quarter-finals onwards.

He fully expects to beat Nasir and believes he won't be the only Northern Ireland boxer to experience victory on what could be a wonderful Wednesday for the team.

Belfast Telegraph

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