Belfast Telegraph

Commonwealth Games: Boxing trio are as pleased as punch after super night in ring

Once again, our boxers are leading way to glory

By Steven Beacom

In Delhi four years ago, the Northern Ireland boxing team won five Commonwealth Games medals, but after the heroics of Joe Fitzpatrick, Sean Duffy and Sean McGlinchy last night, many more are expected to be coming home from Glasgow.

Fitzpatrick, Duffy and McGlinchy all won their quarter-final contests in the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre by unanimous verdicts to seal spots in the last four and assure themselves of at least a bronze.

While pleased to have claimed some treasure already, all three declared after their victories that it is their intention to snatch the biggest prize of all – gold.

Fighting talk. That's what we want to hear. They are clearly learning from bigger names like Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, who are among six Team NI boxers today aiming to join Fitzpatrick, Duffy and McGlinchy on the podium.

Teenager Fitzpatrick was the first Ulsterman into the semi-finals.

The 19-year-old from the Immaculata club was too good in all departments for Kenyan Nicholas Okongo Okoth in the lightweight contest.

"There's loads of pressure lifted off me now. It feels brilliant to be guaranteed at least a bronze medal but it's a gold I want," said the Belfast boy.

His only problem in the fight was sustaining a nasty cut around the eye after a clash of heads near the end.

"The cut is okay, it's not too bad," said Fitzpatrick, who will fight Michael Alexander from Trinidad & Tobago on Friday for a place in the final.

County Armagh man Duffy can also look forward to a Friday battle to reach a gold medal match after overcoming Khir Akyazlan Azmi in the light welterweight division.

Duffy's fight was far from pretty, but you can blame the Malaysian southpaw for that.

At least the 23-year-old from Keady was intent on going forward and wanted to engage in contrast to Azmi, who continually held his opponent when they were in close.

On one occasion when the Ulster Senior Champion tried to free himself the pair got tangled up and fell to the canvas.

Not one for the memory book, but Duffy definitely deserved the success even if in the first two rounds, the Team NI star surprisingly only won on two out of the three judges cards. He was given total approval in the third with his superior fitness and ability telling.

Duffy, who will meet Namibia's Junias Jonas in the last four, said: "I'm delighted with my performance. I came here as the complete underdog, nobody had really heard of me."

He added: "Throughout our training we have said there's no such thing as bronze, it's gold and only gold we're after."

Last year Duffy broke his jaw in the ring and only returned to training at Christmas.

It's difficult to assess whether Duffy or McGlinchy was the prouder man last night.

McGlinchy defeated Kenya's Ajowi Elly Ochola with some strong and accurate punching – a victory he dedicated to his one-year-old boy Callum.

"I've a young son and I want to give him the best life I can. This medal is for him but I want to make it better for him," said the Derry man.

"The bronze is there but I'm keeping my head focused for the next fight. It's hard to stay focused because you can nearly see the finish line. It's how much you want it and I want it so much."

Light Heavyweight McGlinchy only made the Northern Ireland team after winning a controversial box-off earlier this year.

At the Ulster Championships final he lost out to Padraig McCrory, but following an appeal to the Ulster Boxing Council, McGlinchy was presented with what amounted to a re-match to decide who would go to Glasgow.

McGlinchy won and the rest is turning into glorious history for the 22-year-old Oakleaf Boxing Club hero.

The only Northern Ireland boxer to lose in the quarter-finals yesterday was Ruairi Dalton, though he put up a gallant fight against tough Aussie Andrew Moloney, in an intriguing contest going down by a unanimous decision.

Dalton admitted: "He was the better man. I gave everything that I had but he was a strong boy and a nice kid."

Looking to the future, Dalton added: "When you lose an important fight like that it feels like the end of your career, but this is only the start for me."

Dalton will come again, but for Northern Ireland's three victors last night, they still have work to do in Scotland. On Friday Fitzpatrick, Duffy and McGlinchy will fight for final places.

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