Belfast Telegraph

Michaela Walsh ready to shock Olympic champ and win gold

By Adrian Rutherford and Claire Williamson

She is the rising star of Northern Ireland boxing — but Michaela Walsh faces her toughest test as she goes for gold in Glasgow. The talented 21-year-old edged into the final of the women's flyweight division at the Commonwealth Games after a hard-fought win.

Now the Belfast fighter is on the verge of adding to her fast-growing reputation by claiming the gold medal.

Standing in her way is her toughest opponent yet — Olympic champion Nicola Adams.

The pair will clash at 2pm at the 10,000-capacity Hydro Arena — a venue twice the size of the one where English favourite Adams won gold at London 2012.

It is the final most wanted to see, bringing together one of women’s boxing’s poster girls and one of its brightest young stars.

Walsh edged a tight contest against India's Pinki Jangra to realise her long-held dream of a gold medal clash with the much-vaunted and highly-fancied Adams.

Having initially struggled to get to grips

with her opponent's come-forward style, she looked more at ease in the later stages and did just enough to deserve victory.

Walsh believes she can land the ultimate prize if she performs to her best.

“Months ago I said my dream was to fight Nicola Adams in the Commonwealth final and when I go to bed tonight, I will dream of that gold medal hanging round my neck,” said the Holy Family club fighter.

“I know if I perform to the best of my ability, I can beat her.

“She is the golden girl and I'm only a baby but in the ring, it's a different story.”

While Walsh was battling hard to earn a split decision, Adams served up a classy display to comprehensively outpoint Mandy Bujold of Canada.

Adams says it would mean everything if she could add the Commonwealth title to her CV.

“It is exciting. We are going to be fighting in front of a crowd of 11,000 — I know what it is like to fight in front of a big crowd like that and I'll take all that experience into the final,” she said.

“It's another chance to hopefully make history again and I can't wait.”

Walsh is one of four Northern

Ireland boxers aiming for gold on what could be a super Saturday at the Games.

Michael Conlan triumphed in his bantamweight bout with Welshman Sean McGoldrick on a technical decision.

Conlan clearly won his first round against the defending champion but an accidental clash of heads early in the second caused blood to stream from his eye. The severity of the cut caused the fight to be stopped but after, it was determined that it was heads rather than a punch that caused the damage and Conlan was awarded the win as he was ahead at that stage.

A doctor will assess whether he is fit enough to fight England's Qais Ashfaq in the final.

But Conlan remained determined. “They will have to cut my head off to keep me out of the final,” he said.

It’s the second time Conlan has suffered a cut from a clash of heads — the first one was on the top of his head and caused him no problems, but this one is in a much more vulnerable place and could open up again.

Last night, all eyes were on double Olympic medallist and Commonwealth defending champion Paddy Barnes who soared through his match against Uganda’s Fazil Juma Kaggwa to take his place in the final.

Barnes commanded the ring from the bell and forced Raggwa on to the ropes on a number of occasions when he landed combinations without doing too much damage.

He will now face Indian Devendro Singh-Laishram in the final.

The north Belfast boxer beat him en route to an Olympic bronze medal at London 2012.

Barnes has won all his qualifying bouts easily so far — two with stoppages — and is a hot bet to become the first Northern Ireland fighter to retain a Commonwealth title.

Next up in the ring was Immaculata's Joe Fitzpatrick who punched his way to victory to secure at least a silver medal for Team NI as the 19-year-old beat Michael Alexander of Trinidad and Tobago in the men's light heavyweight.

And although they lost their semi-finals, every one is a winner as our other female fighter Alanna Audley-Murphy, and men Sean Duffy, Sean McGlinchy, Steven Donnelly and Connor Coyle all take home bronze medals making it easily the best medal haul ever for both the team and the boxers.

Hopefully by the end of the day, some of those medals will be gold.

Michael Conlan confident of proving he's a cut above the rest  

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