Tipperary Super-heavyweight misses out on Rio Olympics
Tipperary super-heavyweight Dean Gardiner has missed out on qualification for the Rio Olympics. He went down on a unanimous 3-0 decision to Italian Guido Vianello in the final at the qualifying tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Gardiner always faced an uphill battle to make Rio as only the gold medallist in his super-heavyweight division in Baku secured a slot. However, he fought out of his skin all week winning three fights in a row.
Sadly it wasn’t enough sufficient, however, as he lost to the Italian. The pair had previously clashed on two occasions.
Gardiner beat Vianello at the European Games in Baku last summer while the Italian had beaten Gardiner on a split decision at the European Championships in Bulgaria in 2014.
Crucially the Italian was awarded the first round on all three judges’ card. The Irishman’s shots in the round were clearer but the judges opted to reward the Italian for his ever busy jab.
Round 2 also went to the Italian which left Gardiner needing a knock out in the third to get the verdict.
He did win the round 10-9 on all three cards and rocked the Italian late on but it wasn’t enough to overturn the verdict and the Italian won the gold medal and more importantly at place in Rio on a 29-28 score on all three cards.
Meanwhile, middleweight Michael O’Reilly – who had secured his Olympic place when he won his quarter-final - picked up the gold medal on a walkover at the expense of Turkmenistan’s Arslan Achilov.
Now, ranked number 2 in the world, O’Reilly will be a medal contender in Rio.
Eight Irish boxers, O’Reilly, Paddy Barnes, Brendan Irvine, Michael Conlan, David Oliver Joyce, Steven Donnelly, Joe Ward and Katie Taylor have now qualified for Rio.
It will be the biggest Irish Olympic boxing team since Ireland sent ten male boxers to the Rome Olympics in 1960 when there was no pre-qualifying required.
It is a far cry from both the Sydney and Athens Games where Ireland had only one boxer compete in each Games.
Former European champion Ray Moylette will be attempting to join them when he competes in the final qualifying tournament in Venezuela in July.
Professional boxers will be allowed compete in the event where the Mayo light-welterweight needs a top three finish to make the team for Rio.
Interestingly Ireland’s achievements has been surpassed by Great Britain.
Two of their boxers qualified in Baku which means they will have boxers in all ten weight divisions for men in Rio and they also have two female boxers qualified.
As a result they will have 12 boxers at the Games one short of the maximum number allowed.