Former Roscommon footballer becomes first Irishman since 1989 to reach Golden Gloves final

By David Collins

Donal Ward from Loughglynn, Co. Roscommon has punched his way to the New York Ring Masters finals, formally known as The New York Golden Gloves.

This prestigious tournament sees the cream of New York’s boxing talent battle it out for what is their state Championships.

Ward begun his Boxing in Loughglynn Boxing Club, where he was coached by his father Frank. He won underage National titles all the way through the ranks, reaching a Senior Elite Semi Final in 2014 when he was defeated by Matthew Tinker from St. Francis Boxing Club in Limerick.

Before emigrating to New York, with fiancée Katie, Donal worked as a prison Officer in Cloverhill prison. Representing the Irish Prison Service, he entered the 2013 World Police and Fire Games in Belfast and won the Gold Medal in the 81kg category.

Ward is also a talented footballer, playing as a defender for club and county. He lined out for Roscommon from 2010 to 2015. His last games for the County were in the 2015 Championships when he played against London and Sligo before injury ruled him out for the rest of the season.

In 2018 Ward made a return to County football when he lined out at full back for New York when they went agonisingly close to beating Leitrim before losing by one point after extra time.

After this defeat Ward retired from football and returned to boxing, just to keep fit. However, his talent and ability were too much for just fitness classes and when he joined the New York Athletic Club he began to concentrate on his boxing and the decision was made with his coaches Mike Fulham and E.J Bourke to enter the Ring Master Championships.

He started off with a bang, defeating the defending champion Brett Pastore in his opening fight. The quarter finals saw him beat Emmanuel White of St. John’s Boxing Gym in the Bronx and Ward defeated Hosam Abdeldayem from Gleeson’s Gym, Brooklyn in the semi-final. These three fantastic wins, now see him through to the finals, which will be held in the world-famous boxing venue, Madison Square Garden on the 19th of April.

The last Irish man to box in the Golden Gloves final was Alo Kelly from Westmeath. Kelly was beaten on a split decision in the 1998 light heavyweight final. Interestingly, Kelly who boxed out of Rochfordbridge, was trained by Donal’s Uncle, Tom Ward before moving to the states, where he joined the Irish Ropes Boxing Club run by the McLoughlin brothers who started John Duddy’s pro career.

It’s been suggested the last Irish man to win the New York, Golden Gloves title was Munich 1972 Olympian, Christy Elliott, from the Phoenix Boxing Club in Dublin.

Another interesting fact is when Ward joined the New York Athletic Club one of the first people he met was Matthew Tinker who defeated him in the 2014 Semi-final. Tinker also emigrated to New York and has continued his boxing over there. Tinker entered the Ringmasters Championships but lost a very close Heavyweight Semi-final to former WSB and APB fighter Zuhriddin Mahkamov from Uzbekistan.

There is another Irish man involved in these Championships. Brian Glynn from Galway has won two fights and is through to the Novice Heavyweight semi-final.

Donal Ward now works in Sissy McGinty’s Irish Bar in Astoria, Queens. Whatever the result on the 19th of April, there will be great celebrations there once the boxing is over!

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Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 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: [email protected]