Despite still being only 21 years old, Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine is one of the more experienced members of the new-look Irish squad.
The Belfast flyweight is no longer a bolt from the blue, more a genuine medal hope in each and every tournament he enters. Indeed Irvine has gotten to the level where a bronze medal is viewed with slight disappointment.
Last month Irvine claimed European bronze at the Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine, securing qualification to August’s World Championships in the process.
The modest St Paul’s ABC fighter remains modest, but admits that his profile and standing in the 52kg division is rising.
Irvine described how “I’d never class myself as a ‘big dog,’ I’d always say I’m just a boxer like the other lads – but obviously I’ve been getting more established throughout the years.”
“With the Olympics, the Europeans, my name’s popping up, popping up, and I’m getting myself more recognised, qualifying for the Olympics, qualifying for the Worlds, picking up medals here and there. People are recognising me more.”
Irvine won two fights in Eastern Europe, defeating Turk Bathuhan Citfci and Spaniard Gabriel Escobar before slumping to a defeat against English newcomer Niall Farrell in the semi finals.
It was something of a surprise result and Irvine admits that the fight got away from him – as well as stating that he is “one hundred percent” confident that he can defeat the fighter who formerly boxed out of St Anne’s BC in Westport, Mayo.
The Ulsterman explained how I’d never really heard of him [Farrell] until then, it was a different fella on the team beforehand, Muhammad Ali, I was familiar with him.”
“This fella just came on the scene and there was no real notice of him. It was different, being against him.”
“I won the first round hands down, I was comfortable and relaxed. I don’t know what happened in the next two rounds but I sort of just switched off.”
“I should have been switched on and not given him the chance. I’m going to have to stay tuned on in the future because it was a wake-up call for myself.”
Noting the fine margins, Irvine mused how “I could have rightly been European champion. The fella that went on to win gold [Bulgaria’s Daniel Asenov], I beat him when I qualified for the Olympics.”
“That’s not to say that I would have beat him [again], but I’ve beaten him before and surely I could have done it again if I had got to the final.”
There is a slight tinge of disappointment therefore for Irvine, however the youngster remains positive.
He reasoned that “people always saw ‘aw you’ve done amazing, you’ve done amazing’ – and it is an amazing achievement, going away you’re always like ‘I’d love to bring a medal home,’ walking through the airport bringing a medal home, there’s no better feeling – but obviously I wanted it to be a different colour, obviously I wanted it to be a gold.”
“You just have to appreciate everything and be thankful that you’ve had the opportunity to go there and bring success back to Ireland. Every medal’s a medal, no matter what colour it is, but obviously you want the gold one.”
All eyes are now on gold at the World Championships in Hamburg, Germany, at the end of August, and Irvine is well prepared for the scale of the stage.
19 at the last Worlds in Qatar, Irvine was eliminated in the quarter-finals by Cuban Yoahnys Argilagos, however he has come a long way since then.
Irvine describe that he is “definitely a lot more experienced.”
“Having the experience from the Olympics, the World’s biggest stage, It [other tournaments] is liking fighting in your home club show.”
“There were so many eyes watching you, it’s the biggest sporting event in the world. There’s not as much pressure on you walking out into the ring [in other tournaments], you enjoy it a bit more, there’s not as much pressure and you can relax that bit more.”
Photo Credit: Ricardo Guglielminotti – The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)