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DEBATE: The arguments against sending the Irish team to the World Championships

It appears we are in the IN stage of the Irish World Championships hokey-cokey.

The latest talk has Ireland SENDING a team to Belgrade for a tournament that gloves off on October 26.

We await official conformation and mixed messages are aplenty but as of now rumour suggests some form of team will be picked after a training and sparring camp in Sheffield.

Considering the National Elite Champions that were summoned to Abbotstown for assessment were told last week no team would be sent – and the fact High Performance or IABA won’t comment publicly on the matter – means there is still a sense of confusion.

From the outside looking in, the majority feel a team should be sent and with no clear clarification as to why one wouldn’t the many are crying foul.

That silence seems to be a result of a divide that’s hurting Irish amateur boxing – something those on either side of the split will agree on – and it leaves the door open for rumour to rule.

In trying to find out what concerns there are (or were) regarding sending a team came across four common arguments – and the ones on the table we are not sold on.

We decided to discuss the alleged reasoning and put out the counter arguments.

Boxers are too young/inexperienced
Put quite simply, the only way to get international experience is to fight at international tournaments. How can those from the current crop ever become experienced enough to compete at world level or the Olympics if they are only exposed to domestic action? Do we never send a team to a major tournament again?

The rumours suggest that, while many within the IABA are in favour of sending a team, the High Performance Unit wants to see multi-nations used as stepping stones to the likes of the Worlds and European for a new emerging crop. This, in turn, would also give the coaches more time to work with them and shape them.

However, it’s been pointed out that a fighter is as likely, if not more likely, to meet tough opposition early on in a multi-nations. Depending on the draw you could get a weaker fighter at the Worlds to register a win or two on the international stage, build confidence and profile while getting exposure to the occasion.

Not to mention there are plenty of fighters with international experience to pick from. A host of the recently crowned National Elite Championships have won medals at underage internationally. Others have competed have worn the senior vest with the Irish crest, while those who have claimed titles in weight classes with more internationally experienced fighters in them will argue that alone proves their Worlds worth.

Jack Marley is only 18 but he is an Elite Champion

Losing badly at the Worlds will turn boxers off the sport
Firstly, we are sure there are quotes on the High Performance wall in the National Stadium that will read like Facebook poster quotes and advise about ‘win or learn’, ‘bouncing back from disappointment, ‘using defeat as fuel’ and so on and so on.

Not being given the chance to succeed or fail is more dangerous than competing and possibly failing.

Speaking after National Elite victories, pretty much every champ talked about their World Championship ambitions. The majority, if not all, will want to travel to Serbia.

Granted some may be in danger of being outclassed but it won’t be that, that will force them down the pro path. A common theme in’s ‘Introducing series, where we interview new pros for the first time is amateur disgruntlement. Rightly or wrongly, many feel the path to the top end of the amateur game is blocked – and as result, they want to try to take their fight destiny into their own hands.

A lot of these young talents will have that feeling times-ten if no team is selected. They won’t read it as a ‘wait to till you get experience’ play, rather will feel they have been told they are not good enough. It would also prove a move that would discourage underage fighters coming through and those outside the High Performance radar hoping to be bolters. If there is no pathway or faith in the champions what chance for them? The Emmet Brennan style route to success is no more?

We would also argue World selection would be a massive boost for all involved. It would lead to profiles being instantly raised and make securing sponsors easier, which in turn opens doors to full-time training.

Also as previously stated a tough fight early on isn’t guaranteed and a bad defeat is just as likely at multi nations. Would these fighters prefer to be a beaten World Championship representative or a beaten Strandja participant?

Lots of extremely talented and well-decorated Irish fighters have suffered heavy defeats on the big stage and lived to tell the tale. Some have even been stopped at domestic level and gone on to medal Internationally.

Not giving fighters opportunities, particularly ones they felt they earned with national success, is the blueprint of how to send them to the pros.

Paddy Barnes was stopped by Nordine Oubaali in the 2007 EUs but would qualify for the Olympics two months later and went on to become an Irish boxing legend

Boxers just aren’t talented enough
Even if that is the case – and we are not sure it is – is it an excuse not to send a team? Do Ireland pull out of the Six Nations or the Football World Cup qualifiers if they fall behind and are getting beaten regularly? There is an ‘it’s the taking part that counts’ element to the sport, competing at the highest level and pushing oneself.

Granted boxing is a dangerous sport and safety has to be taken into account but by no means will those raising their hands for selection at present be anywhere near the worst fighters in Belgrade.

In more general terms the best fighter at the weight should be sent to the major tournaments. If that fighter isn’t en-vogue or hasn’t much competition domestically that shouldn’t put a ceiling on their international ambitions. They have earned the right to compete and shoot for the stars, that’s sport and it’s certainly boxing a sport where hard work and dedication can be used to the dreamer’s advantage.

Most fighters will not medal, many may exit early, but that can be the case for experienced, decorated, established world-class talents. Over the entire history of the World Championships, success has never been a guarantee.

We may save money, keep the medal percentage higher, and avoid any so-called ’embarrassing’ defeats but the knock-on effects [discussed previously] could prove very harmful to the sport in general.

If it’s solely about talent identification and Olympic success, let’s selected the best Boy and Girls 1s now and just put resources, time, and money into that.


Irish Lockdown has has left us behind the rest of the World
Probably the most understandable argument. Covid-19 restrictions were stricter for Irish fighters than they were for a lot of their counterparts. The Irish fighters have be disproportionately impacted but will that mean a massive gulf in sharpness, fitness or ability to secure a result? ​

The Worlds happen on the back of a National Elite Championships where fighters got top-end domestic action and meaningful rounds. If we don’t compete doesn’t the gap just widen at a crucial stage of the Olympic cycle?

The time lost to Lockdown is just that – time lost. We can never get it back.

Darren O’Neill’s Elite Championships display also helps in the attempt to debunk that argument. The Paulstown fighter defeated a World Championship representative and won the tournament outright after a four-year layoff and one week of focused training. Sean Mari also recently went to the World Military Games beat an Olympian and secured a medal, there was no pandemic prep argument made with regard to him?

Even the Olympics. All these points could be applied there – Ireland still sent a team to the Olympic qualifiers in Paris and excelled despite the fact that their 2020 was more disrupted than many of their rivals.

Not to mention if you go with that logic the recent ‘Seniors’ shouldn’t have gone ahead. Those with access to the High Performance had serious training and prep advantages over those forced to train outdoors or alone.

The lack of prep argument doesn’t apply to those boxers that have been in the High Performance Unit throughout the summer and competed at the Euro Under-22s. And does it even apply to those boxers that had to train outdoors/alone and were still able to win an Elite title and are now over in Sheffield training alongside Team GB and France?

The Galway boys are prepared

Jonny Stapleton contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sports for a living for over 20 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: