Sport

Classy Conlan reaches World Championship final

SportBy Sean McGoldrick
Michael Conlan, left, Ireland, exchanges punches with Dzmitry Asanau, Belarus
Michael Conlan, left, Ireland, exchanges punches with Dzmitry Asanau, Belarus

MICHAEL CONLAN has cruised into the bantamweight final at the World championship at Doha.

The Irish team captain proved much too crafty for his 19-year-old opponent Dzmitry Asanau from Belarus.

Astonishingly, two of the judges gave the Belarussian teenager the second round which technically left the fight hanging in the balance but really there wasn't the slightest doubt about the outcome.

Having won the first round on all three judges' cards, Conlan did likewise in the final round to fashion a unanimous 3-0 win on a 30-27; 29-28, 29-28 score.

He becomes only the second ever Irish boxer to reach a World championship final following in the footsteps of middleweight Jason Quigley in 2013.

Conlan's success means that Ireland are now certain of winning at least one silver medal at the championships.

This is Conlan's older brother's Jamie's birthday so the 23-year-old Belfast man dedicated the win to him. But his sights are set on winning the gold medal in Wednesday's final in which he will meet Murodjon Akhmadaliev from Uzbekistan.

“The final will be for my daughter,” said Conlan. “I am really looking forward to it. I was aware that two of the judges had given the second round to him so the coaches told me I needed the last round.

“I needed to have patience, I didn't panic and I had to stick to the game plan. He is a young lad and I knew he would fold and he wouldn't have the patience,” said Conlan who avoided virtually every punch that the Belarussian bantamweight threw and then punished him when he got caught inside.

The Irish had a chance to assess the potential of Asanau as he attended their final warm up camp in Assasi in Italy prior to travelling to Doha. He sparred one round with Conlan and wouldn't get in against him again.

So for the Irish camp it was mission accomplished with the minimum of fuss even if the judging gave everybody an unnecessary scare.

Meanwhile, Portlaoise middleweight has lost his semi-final on a majority 2-1 decision.

The 22-year-old lacked nothing in effort or bravery but had to gave way to the 19-year-old Bektemir Melikuziev from Uzbekistan who is rated as one of the hottest properties in world amateur boxing right now.

However, O'Reilly can still qualify for the Olympics by winning a box-off on Thursday against the other defeated semi-finalist Hosam Abdin from Egypt

The fight probably hinged on the last twenty seconds of the first round. O'Reilly had caught Melikuziev with three super punches but the Asian boxer got through the Irishman's defences and caught him with a couple of eye-catching shots which obviously stuck in the judges' head as two of them gave him the round.

This forced O'Reilly to go on the offensive and Melikuziev again won the second round on two of the judges' card which gave him an unassailable 20-18 advantage.

The Irishman kept plugging away in the third and did enough to get the verdict from two of the judges but he still went out on a majority 2-1 decision (30-27; 29-28, 27-30).

He couldn't really complain about the outcome but the six-point difference between how two judges viewed the contest underlines how subjective judging can be.

“I gave it my best but that's the way it goes. I thought myself that I did enough to get it but that's boxing. It was my fourth fight in a week. I have to focus on the box-off now and that's what I came here for - to qualify for the Olympics, '' said a disappointed O'Reilly.