Olympics 2016

Rating the chances of Ireland's Olympic boxing hopefuls

Olympics 2016By Sean McGoldrick
Katie Taylor will be gunning for gold in Rio
Katie Taylor will be gunning for gold in Rio

With just two days to go until the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, we look at Ireland's boxing prospects in Rio.

Here is how we think the Team Ireland boxing squad will fare in Rio.

Katie Taylor

 AGE: 30

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 1 Olympic gold (London, 2012), 5 World Ch’ship golds, 1 World Ch’shp bronze; 6 European Ch’ship gold; 5 European Union gold.

The most decorated boxer in the Games with 18 championship gold medals in her trophy cabinet. But there is no getting away from the fact that her form is suspect after defeats in the European Olympic qualifier and, more surprisingly, in the semi-final of the world championships. She has lost her sheen of invincibility and the absence of her father Pete appears to be impacting on her performances. First bout is likely to be for bronze.

PREDICTION: A medal, but it may not be gold.

Michael Conlan

 AGE: 24

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 1 World Ch’ship gold (Doha, 2015), 1 Olympic bronze (London, 2012), 1 European gold (Samokov, 2015), 1 European silver (Minsk, 2013), 1 Commonwealth gold (Glasgow, 2013).

Not only has Conlan not lost a fight since a controversial decision in the WSB series in Kazakhstan in February, 2015, he has won all but one of his last 13 championship fights by unanimous decisions. Ranked No.1 by the AIBA, he faces threats from Cuban Robeisy Ramirez – who beat him in London in the 52kg semi-final – and Murodjon Akhmadaliev.

PREDICTION: A definite gold medal prospect.

Paddy Barnes

AGE: 29

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 2 Olympic bronze medals (Beijing, 2008, London, 2012), 1 European Gold (Moscow, 2010, 1 European Silver (Minsk, 2013), 2 Commonwealth gold (New Delhi, 2010, Glasgow, 2014), 1 World Series of Boxing gold (2015)

Likely to be seeded after winning the WSB title, he will be hopeful of being one of the 10 boxers to get a bye into the last 16. Cuban world champion Joahnys Argilagos, Russian Vasily Yegorov, Hasanboy Dusmatov (Uzbekistan) and in particular, Birzhan Zhakypov (Kazakhstan), who also lost in successive Olympics to Zou Shiming, are the obvious threats. .

PREDICTION: A live contender for gold.

READ MORE: Paddy Barnes leads Ireland hopefuls out in Rio as boxers chase major medal haul

Brendan Irvine

AGE: 20

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Silver medal at European Games in Baku (2015)

Ireland’s youngest boxer in Rio, the ‘Wee Rooster’ – as he is known among the boxing fraternity – is already ahead of schedule by securing an Olympic spot at his first attempt.

Unlucky to drop a split decision to a Turkish fighter in the 49kg class at the World Championships in Doha, he saved the IABA from facing a tricky decision by then opting to move up to the flyweight division. Russian Misha Aloyan, who won bronze in 2012 in London, is the favourite for gold this time.

PREDICTION: Could be the surprise packet.

David Oliver Joyce

 AGE: 29

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 1 European Union gold (Odense, 2009)

Thirteen years after winning a European bronze at junior level, Joyce has finally reached the Promised Land. Unlucky to miss out on qualifying for both the Beijing and London Games, no Irish boxer has worked harder to achieve his lifetime ambition. He is unlikely to be seeded in Rio, which makes next Friday’s draw absolutely crucial. The boxer to avoid is three-time world champion Lazaro Alvarez, although the Cuban lost to John Joe Nevin in the 56kg semi-final in London.

PREDICTION: Needs a decent draw in order to progress.

Joe Ward

Ward (right) with teammate Joyce (left)

 AGE: 22

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 1 World Ch’ship silver (Doha, 2015), 1 World Ch’ship bronze (Almaty, 2013), 2 European gold (Samokov, 2015, Ankara, 2011)

Four years after being unlucky to miss out on qualifying for London, the ‘Moate Marauder’ gets his chance to compete his medal collection before his probable move to the professional ranks. Ranked No.3, he is likely to be seeded.

Cuban Julio Cesar La Cruz – who beat Ward in Doha – is the favourite, but two other qualifiers, Mathieu Bauderlique (France) and Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran), have also beaten the Irishman.

PREDICTION: Podium finish.

Steven Donnelly

 AGE: 27

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Finished 4th in WBS series 2015

A classic rags to riches story for the Ballymena native who achieved qualification through the back door. Two Russian welterweights qualified through different routes. They had to box-off as countries can only nominate one boxer per weight division, so Donnelly got the nod. However, he did prove his credentials in the AIBA Pro Boxing series, in which he was unbeaten. The division is wide open, although Donnelly needs to avoid the 2015 world champion Mohammed Rabii, from Morocco, in the early rounds of the Games.

PREDICTION: An outside medal contender.

Michael O'Reilly

 AGE: 23

CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: 1 World championship bronze (Doha, 2015), 1 European Games gold (Baku, 2015)

Even though he was the last Irish boxer to qualify for Rio, he is a medal contender. Ranked number two by AIBA, he is virtually certain to be seeded in the all-important draw. Sometimes judges don’t give him full credit for his work due to his southpaw stance, so he certainly deserves a break. Beaten by Bektemir Melikuziev from Uzbekistan in the semi-final of the World Championships, who in turn lost to Cuban Arlen Lopez in the final, O’Reilly will probably have to beat one of them to secure a medal.

PREDICTION: A podium finish is well within his grasp in Rio.