Belfast Telegraph

Michaela could be better than Katie ...but gold in these games is Walsh's immediate aim

By Steven Beacom

Belfast boxer Michaela Walsh has been given the perfect boost ahead of her bid to start a glorious Commonwealth Games final push for Northern Ireland with her coach John Conlan predicting that she will become even better than Olympic legend Katie Taylor.

NINE Northern Ireland fighters face semi-finals today aiming to reach tomorrow's deciding bouts when gold medals will be up for grabs... and it is 21-year-old flyweight Michaela who will be leading the charge opening up this afternoon's boxing programme in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Fellow female boxer Alanna Audley-Murphy will also enter the ring plus Michael Conlan, Sean Duffy, Sean McGlinchy, Paddy Barnes, Joe Fitzpatrick, Steven Donnelly and Connor Coyle, in that order, aiming to make it a magnificent seven finalists for the men.

Every one of them is assured of bronze, but all of them have eyes on golden treasure.

Walsh has been already made a huge impression in Glasgow, winning both her contests by unanimous decisions following classy displays, and the coach of the Northern Ireland boxing team insists this is only the start for the Holy Family fighter.

Conlan believes Michaela has the potential to outdo the woman she looks up to more than any other in boxing – the current European, World and Olympic Champion and Irish sporting legend Taylor.

"Michaela will be one of the stars of women's boxing in the future without a doubt," said Conlan.

"She woke up on the morning of her last fight shadow boxing in her sleep. She just loves the game. She is dedicated and does everything right.

"I think she is going to be better than Katie Taylor. She has all the attributes and she is mentally strong."

The dream final in the women's flyweight division would be Walsh v England's Olympic champion Nicola Adams, but Conlan revealed that the Northern Ireland woman, who meets Indian Pinki Rani in a lunchtime semi-final, did not want to wait that long.

"The first girl Michaela wanted to fight here was Nicola Adams. I didn't want that but that's what she wanted," said Conlan.

"Obviously it would make a dream final but Michaela has a very tough opponent now in the Indian girl and they are a country who traditionally have strong fighters.

"The girl Michaela is fighting beat a multiple world champion from India to get here so she is obviously the new kid on the block and it will be a good fight."

Audley-Murphy faces Shelley Watts from Australia tonight in a lightweight semi-final, having scrapped her way to a split decision victory on Wednesday.

Conlan said: "Poor Alanna was the last one on the team to fight so she put a lot of pressure on herself. It was a very close fight but there was a great crowd behind Alanna and that dragged her through.

"We tried to relieve the pressure and tell her it was no problem, but she let it build up and in the first round it caught up with her.

"She came back strong though and in the second and third rounds she was brilliant and won the fight.

"You haven't seen the best of Alanna yet.

"She has been training hard and has been sparring really well. Hopefully you will see the real Alanna in the semi-finals."

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