Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Adams holds no fears for our champion Michaela Walsh

Walsh is capable of beating anyone ...including England's golden girl

First to the punch: Michaela Walsh (red) lands a blow on opponent Pinki Rani of India en route to taking a place in today’s final
First to the punch: Michaela Walsh (red) lands a blow on opponent Pinki Rani of India en route to taking a place in today’s final

It's the dream final. The one everybody wanted. Northern Ireland's up and coming talent Michaela Walsh versus England's experienced Olympic champion Nicola Adams.

And with a Commonwealth Games gold medal at stake in the flyweight division.

What a way to start today's boxing finals.

Both came through their semi-final bouts in contrasting fashion yesterday, but all that will be forgotten at 2pm when the pair step into the ring.

Young Belfast woman Walsh is confident that she will produce an upset.

Adams would not be drawn on making a prediction, insisting that she will let her fists do the talking in the ring.

Today the finals move from the compact Hall 4A in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre to the SSE Hydro Arena, where a crowd of 13,000 will be roaring the two women on. The atmosphere will be electric.

Adams, of course, is well used to those numbers having claimed gold in London 2012.

The 31-year-old from Leeds comfortably made the decider with a unanimous points decision victory over Canada's Mandy Bujold while Walsh had a much tougher task in overcoming India's Pinki Rani.

The Ulster woman needed a split decision to see her through in what was her hardest fight to date in Glasgow.

Rani had defeated Mary Kom, India's multiple world champion, to get to the Games so she was always going to be a tricky opponent.

Walsh's best work came when she kept the smaller Rani at arm's length, using her jab effectively and then moving out of range. When applied, the tactics devised by the coaching team in the corner worked for the Ulster girl.

The problems for Michaela arose any time Rani got in close, but her classier work was noted by two of the judges scoring 40-36 and 39-37 in her favour with the other calling it 38-38.

The Holy Family fighter said: "I knew it was going to be a tough fight and I found it hard to get my range going in the first round but I listened to John (Conlan), Stephen (Friel) and Eddie (Bolger) in the corner and stuck to my tactics in the second round.

"I felt she won the first round, I nicked the second and I was at ease again in the third and fourth rounds."

As for taking on Adams, the Belfast woman has no fear about facing one of the most respected figures in the sport.

"It's a dream come true to fight her in the final. She is a brilliant boxer and maybe one day we will meet in an Olympic final," said Michaela.

"She's the golden girl and I'm a baby compared to her but I'm here to get one colour only and that's gold. When I put my head on the pillow at night I imagine myself wearing a gold medal.

"I may be a fan of Nicola's but I don't fear her. It's the same with Katie Taylor. I'm a fan of her too but I'd get into the ring with her tomorrow.

"Paddy Barnes is our captain here and he says 'fear no one'. This is like the Olympics for me and I can't wait for the final."

Getting a little emotional, she added that she was doing it for her grandfather back home who is "not too well at the moment."

Asked about Walsh's prediction, the cool and calculated Adams replied: "We'll see what happens in the ring.

"I don't really do that much talking about my opponents outside the ring. I'll let everything resolve itself in the ring."

While Walsh will go home with gold or silver, fellow Belfast fighter Alanna Audley-Murphy knows she will return with bronze after losing a unanimous decision to tough Australian Shelley Watts, whose powerful left hand forced the Northern Ireland woman to take a standing count.

"It was a tough fight. I'm gutted I didn't get the decision. It was unanimous and I thought it would have been split but I can hold my head up high and hopefully I have lost to the winner," said the 28-year-old.

"I was here to get gold so not to be in the final is disappointing, but at least I am going home with something.

"I've been in the game a long time but this Games has given me a real boost and I want to keep progressing now. I will take a few weeks off and have a nice holiday and then there is the European Games next year and the World Championships in November and I'm aiming to go to both."

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