Kellie Harrington got her Olympics underway this morning in Tokyo with minimal fuss.
The Dublin lightweight disposed of Italian Rebecca Nicoli to put herself just nine minutes away from a medal in the Japanese capital.
Harrington was too smart, too quick, and too skilful for her southpaw opponent and ran out a comfortable winner to move into the quarter-finals.
The last of Team Ireland to grace the ring in the Kokugikan sumo wrestling arena, 2018 World Amateur champion Harrington made up for the delay with a classy display in her Last 16 bout, dominating her game opponent and moving into medal contention.
While only 21, Nicoli is an experienced international campaigner and was previously beaten by Harrington’s domestic rival, Amy Broadhurst, in the 2019 European U22 final. Having qualified via the European Olympic Qualifier Box-Off, the Milan fighter claimed an opening round split-decision win over Mexican Esmeralda Facon.
Seeded #1 and rewarded with a bye, Harrington was straight into this morning’s Round of 16 bout but showed no lack of sharpness, cruising to a unanimous decision win and sending a warning out to the entire 60kg division
The St Mary’s Tallaght stylist began aggressively and, when Nicole tried to respond, the youngster would be caught with short left hands. Switching throughout, Harrington began to land punches in bunches as the pair exchanged in the second half.
Down on all five cards after three minutes, Nicoli came out aggressively in the second, raiding well. While it was a closer stanza, some classy counters from Harrington in the closing minute ensured she again swept the cards.
With a near-unassailable lead, Harrington kept on the back foot in the third as Nicoli chased to no avail, taking some big shots for her troubles.
Going to the judges in absolutely no doubt, Harrington was confirmed the victor with scorecards of 30-27 x4 and a 29-28
The 31-year-old now progresses to the quarter-finals at 4:30am in the early hours of Tuesday morning where she will be boxing to guarantee at least a bronze medal. She will face Algerian Imane Khelif in the Last Eight encounter.
Ireland have one further fighter in action today – Belfast welter Aidan Walsh who will be boxing Mauritian Merven Clair at 4:50am looking to seal a sensational bronze medal.