'Devastated' Brendan Irvine bows out of Olympics with first round defeat in Tokyo

Brendan Irvine of Ireland, centre, with coaches Zaur Antia, left, and John Conlan, after defeat to Carlo Paalam

Brendan Irvine of Ireland, centre, with coaches Zaur Antia, left, and John Conlan, after defeat to Carlo Paalam

Sean McGoldrick in Tokyo

Irish boxing captain Brendan Irvine has exited the Tokyo Olympics in the first round of the flyweight division.

The devastated Belfast fighter questioned the judges’ decision to give the nod to his opponent Carlo Paalam from the Philippines. But after winning the first round, the momentum was with Paalam who won eventually on a majority 4-1 decision.

“It was a close fight. I thought he won the first round, but I won the second and third rounds. But that’s boxing. I’d need to get back and watch it. But I did think I did enough to get it. I’m just devastated to be honest with you.

“I knew he was going to be explosive from the get-go. I did study him coming into it – something I don’t usually do. I thought I managed him quite well at times. He caught me with a couple of stupid shots but nothing that was hurting me."

Irvine admitted he could have tried to relax a bit more. "But I’m not going to try and make up excuses or say ‘I could have done this, or I could have done that.’ You only get one shot at these and mine wasn’t enough.

“He was tiring from the second round; he was holding me a lot. I was trying to push him off and the referee was ignoring me a wee bit. That’s just the way it goes.

“What can you do. Everyone here is incredibly talented. They’re superb athletes. I gave it everything in there and it just wasn’t enough."

This is the second successive Olympics that Irvine failed to make it past the first round. In Rio five years ago, he was beaten by the eventual gold medallist, Shakhobdin Zoirov from Uzbekistan.

Though the Belfast fighter thought he had done enough to secure his passage to the last 16 the momentum was with Paalam after a dominant first round effort.

Irvine improved significantly in the second, though Paalam started the round very aggressively and for a flyweight packed a powerful punch.

But the Belfast man was definitely the busier boxer. It was a close call but only two of the judges gave the Irish captain the nod which left him needing a knock-out in the final round.

Paalam was experienced enough to navigate through the three minutes by frustrating Irvine and he went through on scores of 30-27, 30-27, 29-28, 29-28, 28-29.

Irvine has had a nightmare two years dealing with a succession of injuries before finally getting the all clear to resume his career prior to the Olympic qualifier in London in March 2020. He was the only Irish boxer to secure his spot in Tokyo before the tournament was abandoned due to Covid-19. But he was beaten in his first fight when the tournament resumed in Paris last month.

Meanwhile, Kildare referee Dermot McDermott officiated at one of the shortest fights in the tournament so far. He stepped in to stop a middleweight contest after just 83 seconds after one of the fighters was clearly out of his depth.

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