14 August 2008 – by Mark Doyle
John Joe Joyce became the first Irishman to bow out of this years Olympics after suffering the agony of defeat via countback in Beijing on Thursday.
The 20-year-old Athy man had produced a stunning comeback to lead Felix Diaz going into the closing stages of their last 16 light-welterweight bout but his opponent from the Dominican Republic levelled the bout at 11 points apiece just seconds before the final bell.
Joyce thought he had done enough for the win but it was Diaz who was awarded the victory, leaving the Irishman distraught.
He had every reason to be upset, too, after being harshly treated by the referee throughout the fight.
Indeed, Jae Bong Kim of Korea appeared to have it in for him right from the word go, issuing Joyce with a public warning in the very first round which played a significant role in Diaz in opening up an early 5-1 lead.
Joyce regrouped superbly, though, and edged the second 3-2 to reduce the gap to just three points.
He then dominated the third, utlising his superior movement and hand speed to devastating effect as he turned a 7-4 deficit into a 9-8 advantage.
The fight was now within Joyces grasp and it appeared all over when a sweet right hand saw him double his advantage.
However, Joyce, perhaps betraying a lack of experience, allowed the brawling Diaz to get on the inside too often in the closing stages and the South American dragged himself level with two quick-fire hooks.
Joyce edged in front once more but again Diaz restored parity and the Dominican then nicked victory when it went to the secondary scoring system.
It was a heartbreaking way for Joyce to exit the Games, not least because he will know only too well that he should not have allowed Diaz to draw him into such a scrappy and fractious encounter.
The hope will be, however, that this experience will serve him well in London 2012.