Olympic bronze medallist Michael Conlan is crowned European bantamweight boxing champion
Olympic bronze medallist Michael Conlan has been crowned European bantamweight boxing champion.
In the final in Samokov, Bulgaria the Irishman bullied his British opponent Qais Ashfaq to record a 3-0 unanimous win. It was the second time Ashfaq had lost to the Irishman as Conlan beat him in the gold medal bout at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last summer.
This is Conlan's fourth major championship medal; having previously won a silver medal at the European championships in Minsk in 2013 when he lost in the final to Welshman Andrew Selby in the flyweight final.
He won bronze at the London Olympics in 2012 and gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Conlan has already qualified for next year Olympic in Rio but his big aim will be to medal at the World championships in Doha and thus become the only Irish male boxer along with John Joe Nevin to win medals at the European, World and Olympic Games.
Conlan opted to box against in orthodox fashion against the British boxer who is a southpaw. The first round was very cagey but the Belfast bantamweight showed all his skills to to avoid his opponent's best shots but crucially he scored with enough shots himself to give him a crucial 10-9 lead from all three judges.
Conlan in action
Ashfaq had a bit more success in getting through in the second round although essentially it remained a technical fight. This was reflected in the scoring as one of the judges gave the UK fighter the round 10-9. The volume of punches thrown by Conlan give him the verdict on the other two judges' card to leave the Irishman in control 20-18; 20-18; 19-19.
Conlan, as expected, switched to southpaw in the third round as he was happy to defend his advantage and forcing his opponent to come forward which was against his natural instinct. Again Conlan got through with the majority of punches.
The Olympic bronze medalist won the round 10-9 on all three judges' card on his way to winning his first European title on an unamimous 30-27; 30-27; 29-28 verdict.
Meanwhile, twenty-one-year Moate light heavyweight Joe Ward has become the first Irish male boxer to win two European senior boxing titles.
Ward, who missed out on the London Olympics in 2012, justified his favourites tag by outclassing Dutch soldier Peter Mullenberg in the 81kg final in Samokov, Bulgaria.
Remarkably Ward has never lost a fight in these championships. Four years ago as a seveteen year old he caused a sensation in Ankara by winning the gold medal in the light heavyweight category in his first major internatonal tournament.
Nowadays he wouldn't be allowed box in the event as the age limit is nineteen. In 2013 in Minsk he looked on course to retain his title but dislocated his knee cap after a clash of legs with his Polish opponent in the preliminary round and was forced to retire.
But his career is now back on track after this win in Bulgaria. He participated in the newly launched APB professional series this spring but failed in his attempt to qualify for the Olympics via this route after suffering a stooage defeat in what was effectively a final elminator for Rio.
As a result of that defeat he was allowed back to compete at the European and he made the most of the opportunity.