Ward dominant on night of new champions at National Boxing Finals

Niall Kelly

It was a different opponent but business as usual as Joe Ward continued his dominance of Irish light-heavyweight boxing with a fourth straight title on National Elite Finals night in Dublin.

Ward’s trilogy against Kenny Egan has been the highlight of these finals in recent years but tonight it was Limerick’s Matthew Tinker he led from first bell to last to win by unanimous decision.

Ward’s win was a rarity — a successful title defence — on a night when professional defections and weight changes saw nine senior belts change hands.

At the top of the bill Paddy Barnes reasserted himself as the country’s light-flyweight kingpin with a magnificent seventh title while his London 2012 teammate Michael Conlan took home the bantamweight crown.

Michael Conlan and Tyrone McCullagh
Michael Conlan and Tyrone McCullagh

Michael Conlan and Tyrone McCullagh do battle.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

But there were shocks for two more Olympians as Adam Nolan and Darren O’Neill lost out to Stephen Donnelly and Michael O’Reilly.

There were wins too for Chris Phelan, David Oliver Joyce, Dean Walsh, Gary Sweeney and Con Sheehan.

But it was Ward’s ruthless dominance that left a lasting impression and saw him win by wide margins on all three cards.

Afterwards he promised not to stop until he gets “to the top — but that won’t be for a long time. I’m only young.

“The dream is to get to an Olympic Games and win a medal. I’ll see where I go then after that. Every time you win a National Championships, it’s always sweet.”

Barnes, the world number three at 49kg, made no mistake in his rematch with Ryston’s Hughie Myers.

Hughie Myers and Paddy Barnes
Hughie Myers and Paddy Barnes

Paddy Barnes celebrates his win.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Myers capitalised to win his first senior title when Barnes missed last year’s tournament through illness but the two-time Olympic bronze medallist made no mistake, winning on all three cards.

“Every round was close,” Barnes said afterwards, “but my killer shots were scoring a wee bit more.”

In an all-Belfast final at 56kg, Conlan was made to work for his win against sparring partner Tyrone McCullagh.

But he ground out a fourth straight title, adding bantamweight honours to his three flyweight belts. Conlan said:

I knew it was going to be close no matter what. Tyrone is a very, very good boxer. He’s a European bronze medallist and I always knew it was going to be close. I always lose the cool with him because he’s so awkward and you can even see in there how awkward he is. I had to just try to keep my cool.”

The win vindicated his decision to step up in weight, he added.

“At 56kg I feel far stronger and far fitter, able to throw more punches. At this weight I feel as strong as any of them.”

David Oliver Joyce showed that he is still a force to be reckoned with as he edged out Sean McComb in a pulsating lightweight decider to win his fifth senior title.

That sparked a series of toe-to-toe contests with Donnelly stunning Nolan on a split decision in the welterweight final shortly afterwards.

The Lisburn fighter sent out a warning when he beat Beijing Olympian John Joe Joyce in the semi-finals last week.

And he immediately set his sights on a Commonwealth Games gold medal later this year.

“I’ve been the underdog all the way throughout this championship. Even last week against John Joe Joyce, they expected him to win and I pulled it out of the bag.

“I deserve it as well. I put in hard work for the past four months. This is my time. I knew that I belonged at this level and I proved it out there tonight.

“Adam Nolan is a great boxer and that was a great fight. He made me work for every second of it. I’m just over the moon. I can’t believe it.”

The night’s other surprise package, Michael O’Reilly, was just as popular as he derailed Darren O’Neill’s drive for five in the middleweight final.

Six women’s finals will take place in the National Stadium tomorrow night.

But European, World and Olympic champion Katie Taylor will not be in action. She received a walkover in the lightweight final after he opponent Alanna Audley-Murphy was forced to withdraw due to a family bereavement.

Michael Nevin and Dean Walsh
Michael Nevin and Dean Walsh

Michael Nevin rocks Dean Walsh.

Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

  • 49kg: Paddy Barnes (Holy Family, Belfast) beat Hughie Myers (Ryston BC, Kildare) UD

  • 52kg: Chris Phelan (Ryston BC/Defence Forces) beat Adam Courtney (St Mary’s BC, Dublin) UD

  • 56kg: Michael Conlan (St John Bosco BC, Belfast) beat Tyrone McCullagh (Holy Family BC, Belfast) UD

  • 60kg: David Oliver Joyce (St Michael’s Athy BC, Kildare) beat Sean McComb (Holy Trinity BC, Belfast) SD

  • 64kg: Dean Walsh (St Josephs/St Ibars BC, Wexford) beat Michael Nevin (Portlaoise BC) UD

  • 69kg: Stephen Donnelly (All Saints BC, Belfast) beat Adam Nolan (Bray BC, Wicklow) SD

  • 75kg: Michael O’Reilly (Portlaoise BC) beat Darren O’Neill (Paulstown BC, Kilkenny) SD

  • 81kg: Joe Ward (Moate BC, Westmeath) beat Matthew Tinker (St Francis BC, Limerick) UD

  • 91kg: Gary Sweeney (Olympic BC, Galway) beat Stephen Ward (Monkstown, Antrim SD

  • 91kg+: Con Sheehan (Clonmel BC, Tipperary) beat Dean Gardiner (Clonmel BC, Tipperary) UD

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