It was double joy for Ireland at the Women’s World Elite Boxing Championships in Istanbul yesterday as Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke wrote their names into the history books with victory in their respective finals.
The pair won their finals back-to-back, meaning Ireland had gone from three to five world amateur champions in the space of half an hour as they joined Katie Taylor, Michael Conlan and Kellie Harrington who had previously won world gold.
A jaw-dropping win bonus of $100k (£80k) apiece was the financial reward, but the status of world champion has elevated both into the pantheon of sporting greats, joining a very special club, and both were worthy winners.
“This is an historic day for Irish boxing,” said IABA President Dominic O’Rourke.
“A day that will be remembered for generations to come. Amy and Lisa have done themselves, their families and their clubs — St Bronagh’s and Olympic Galway — proud by showcasing the depth and quality of Irish boxing on the world stage.”
First up was Broadhurst — who will represent Northern Ireland at this summer’s Commonwealth Games — in the light-welterweight decider against Algeria’s Imane Khelif and after an even start, the Dundalk native who boxes out of St Bronagh’s ABC in Rostrevor fully took over.
Khelif enjoyed a height and reach advantage, popping the jab as she appeared to take control early, but Broadhurst found her rhythm with lefts and rights that earned her the nod of three of the five judges after the first.
Broadhurst remained compact in the second and was getting close enough to smother, picking her shots well when the opportunity arose, and like the first round came on strong to completely take over, landing with enough consistency to sweep the round with two of the judges to score it 10-8 in her favour.
Despite a huge lead entering the final frame, it was Broadhurst putting her foot on the accelerator and a scoring left on the bell underlined her dominance as she became the third Irish female world champion, claiming gold and the life-changing win bonus.
“I’m dreamed of this since I was a wee girl and you don’t think it will ever happen because of the things you have to overcome,” said an emotional Broadhurst afterwards.
“I’ve come a long way in the last two years — this doesn’t feel real. It’s the best day of my life. I’ve won European medals, but not world. This is my fifth World Championships and I’ve done it — this is crazy.”
It was then over to Roscommon’s O’Rourke in the 70kg final against Mozambique’s Helena Alcinda Panguana. This was a much closer contest with O’Rourke’s movement and counters the antidote to Panguana’s more aggressive approach.
Boxing off the back foot from the southpaw stance, O’Rourke was first to score with a left. The Mozambique fighter was applying pressure and getting through with some decent lefts, but O’Rourke was perhaps just landing cleaner and three of the five judges agreed to put her into a narrow lead after the first.
While Panguana continued to march forward in the second, she wasn’t quite putting O’Rourke under a lot of pressure as the Olympic BC woman’s movement was seeing her stay out of danger for the most part, yet there wasn’t a lot in the round in terms of punches landed.
Again it was a 3-2 split for O’Rourke, yet the Algerian judge somehow saw it 10-8 for the African fighter which was hard to comprehend given neither had dominated sufficiently to earn as much.
It was all to play for in the third with Panguana having early success with a combination as she was a little more measured, while O’Rourke finished well to leave a nervous wait for the decision, but she had done it on a 4-1 split decision to add a world title to her recent Euro U22 success, making it a day of unprecedented success for Irish boxing.