Aidan Walsh has guaranteed Irish boxing’s SEVENTEENTH Olympic medal after a wonderful win in Tokyo this morning.
The 24-year-old Belfast welterweight comprehensively defeated Mauritian southpaw Merven Clair in the quarter-finals to ensure that he will be on the podium.
Fighting shortly after star lightweight Kellie Harrington opened her Olympic account by cruising past Italian Rebecca Nicoli, Walsh used every facet of his unique style to bamboozle Clair and claim a fantastic medal – and he’s not done yet.
The Monkstown man took an early lead, consolidated in the second, and was able to negotiate the third to seal another sensational piece of silverware for Ireland.
From tiny Rodrigues Island – nearly 600kms from the main island of Mauritius – Clair possessed major international experience and has enjoyed success in recent years. A 2016 Olympian at middleweight as well as a competitor at the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games, Clair won bronze at the 2017 African Championships and gold in the 2019 African Games. At these Games, the 28-year-old defeated Canadian Wyatt Sanford in the opening round before upsetting Jordanian fourth seed Zeyad Eshaish to make it here – but he would go no further.
Tipped as a dark horse beforehand, Commonwealth silver medallist Walsh has become the break-out Irish boxing star of these Games, receiving bye to the Last 16 where he eased past Cameroonian Albert Mengue. Roared on by his older sister Michaela, Walsh showed his trademark nous to do the business.
As expected, it was extremely cagey to start. Walsh, though, was the quicker to find his groove and landed the only real shots of note, countering the lefty with straight rights to take the round on all five cards.
Having taken a crucial early lead, Walsh was able to continue inviting Clair on in the second round and continued landing well with the right. The African was enjoying more success having upped his own workrate but the better quality was coming from the Irishman and this was validated by three judges scoring the stanza in his favour and leaving Clair with a mountain to climb.
On his bike, which twice drew the ire of the referee, Walsh weathered an early storm in the third before landing some beautiful shots to close out the fight.
Going to the judges with little doubt, Walsh was confirmed a winner and an Olympic medallist on a 4-1 split decision (final cards: 30-27 x3, 29-28, 28-29).
Walsh becomes the sixteenth boxer to win an Olympic medal for Ireland, joining a roll of honour comprised of John McNally, Fred Tiedt, Socks Byrne, John Caldwell, Freddie Gilroy, Jim McCourt, Hugh Russell, Michael Carruth, Wayne McCullough, Kenny Egan, Paddy Barnes, Darren Sutherland, Katie Taylor, John Joe Nevin, and Michael Conlan.
Bronze can be upgraded to silver on Sunday morning at 4:00am. Waiting in the semi-final will be Britain’s #1 seed Pat McCormack – who holds three successive wins over Walsh at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, 2019 World Championships, and 2020/1 European Olympic Qualifier. While it is a daunting task, Walsh is confident, in form, and a nightmare to fight.
Ireland’s next fighter in action will also be in action on Sunday, with Lisburn featherweight Kurt Walker taking to the ring in Tokyo shortly before Walsh at 3:30am. Fresh from shocking Uzbek gold medal favourite Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov, Walker will now look to guarantee bronze versus American Duke Ragan – who, of course, is cornered by Wexford’s Billy Walsh.