By Michael O’Neill
There are no ‘easy bouts’ at this level in any major European (or World) boxing championships but an unusually tough draw for the Irish in Baku. Talk of the ‘luck of the Irish’? Not in Baku certainly. Not in this writer’s view at any rate.
Even the great Katie Taylor with seventeen international Golds to her account has not been afforded the courtesy of a number one seeding by AIBA since as we reported previously they have chosen NOT to seed the women boxers in Baku (nor allocate Rio 2016 places to women) whilst they have given such status to the men insofar as seeding is concerned.
Many, even within the AIBA’s own “boxing family” see this as ‘discrimination’ against the female boxers and it would be difficult to disagree particularly as the AIBA make no effort to justify this stance any more than they did in Jeju for the Women’s world’s last November.
Taylor starts off with a bout against ‘old friend and foe’ Bulgaria’s Denitsa Eliseeva on 19th June whilst Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michaela Walsh comes ‘face to face’ once more with new World no.3 and Russian champion Elena Saveleva who defeated the Holy Family boxer on a split decision last time they met.
After the draw in Baku, Michaela Walsh said on Social media : ” I box the Russian champion (Elena Saveleva) on Saturday, I boxed her last year she beat me split decision.. Gonna be a different story this time I can’t wait to get in and box I’m feeling brilliant!”
Taylor, if she beats Eliseeva then would face several more of the world’s top boxers on her side of the draw inc world no 1 at 57kg Russia’s Zinaida Dobrynina the replacement for Sofya Ochigava. Local no. 1 and World silver medallist Yana Alekseevena is also in Taylor’s section of the draw. So too are Mira Potkonen, Sweden’s Ida Lundblad,new Turkish hope for the future Gamze Bazar and of course the aforementioned Alekseevena egged on by the fanatical home crowd.
“Katie has been ranked number one in the world for the last nine years, but what is the point of having world rankings if there is no seeding. It’s disappointing,” said Pete Taylor.
French champion Estelle Mossely has few top stars in her half though intriguingly one boxer who does feature is Romania’s Ioana Mera, the former Junior from Mitchelstown BC where she was based when her parents lived in Ireland. Also in that half of the draw are Spain’s Jennifer Miranda Maquera and Italy’s Romina Marenda but barring a real shock neither is likely to cause an upset.
Cavan’s BC’s Ceire Smith also faces a daunting task should she defeat Camilla Johansen of Norway in their opener as the winner here meets another top Russian world ranking fighter, Saina Sagataeva.
What of the men?
Limerick’s Myles Casey and Ivan Fihurenka of Belarus will make their own piece of boxing history at the inaugural European Games Tuesday morning.
The St Francis BC flyweight and Fihurenka are slated to meet in the opening contest of the program on Day 1 of the tournament and will be the first ever boxers to meet in a European Games bout.
Dean Walsh and Dean Gardiner received byes into the last 16 from the draw. Also in action in Tuesday’s sessions are Kurt Walker at 56kg and Irish Team Captain Darren O’Neill
Describing the draw as extremely tough, Irish head coach Billy Walsh said that the Irish squad had prepared well for the tournament.
Away from the actual ‘action’ IN the ring in Baku:
There will also be a keen interest in and much attention on the performance of referees and judges in Baku following upon some highly controversial decisions in the 2014 Asian Games, the 2014 Women’s World’s and also the recent 2015 AIBA Women’s Youth and Juniors in Taiwan. Though the organisation there was first class one could not say the same of the judging.
Though ‘the worst’ decisions went against no one particular country, or boxers from any one confederation – and boxing decisions are often controversial – the ‘amateur’ sport is likely to lose several more top amateurs if steps are not taken and soon, to at very least allow, decisions to be appealed in the 8 or so hours following a bout.
That fight could then be viewed by a qualified ‘appeals’ judge from a country with no links to the boxers or original judges and overseen by the tournament Supervisor.
Of course there would be a fee to be paid for lodging the appeal, to be lost if the original verdict was upheld but at least boxers, their coaches and federations would feel they have had an opportunity whereas now no one can appeal a clearly “awful” verdict some of which have left even referees and judges themselves baffled in recent months.
Not only must justice be done but justice must be seen to be done in those rare (I stress) cases where judging is so poor that one is often left wondering if these are simply “inexperienced” judges with little experience of top class international R+J or if there is “bias” in favour of boxers from nearby ‘friendly’ states as often happened for example in the Eurovision Song Contest. Certainly in the Asian Games the Indian delegations were extremely upset after one of their female boxers was deemed to have ‘lost’ to a host nation boxer.
At this time it does appear to almost all ‘outside the AIBA family ‘(and many within) that the dice is heavily loaded in favour of the AIBA with little or no hope left for boxers to appeal any truly bad decision. Things need to be reviewed and now that there is a new CEO to replace Korea’s Ho Kim it is time to review the whole way that the association operates and that includes itself and its rules and technical issues not just its boxers and their actions.
You will find LIVE STREAMING on the Baku2015 website whilst TV viewers in Ireland and in the United Kingdom will be served by Setanta Sports and BT Sports. As the timings of such coverage vary from day to day, do check out your local TV programme guide.
1st European Games Baku, Azerbaijan
52kg Myles Casey (Ireland) v Ivan Fihurenka (Belarus)
56kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) v Nazirove Bakhtovar (Russia)
91kg Darren O’Neill (Ireland) v Ionut Jitaru (Romania)
69kg Adam Nolan (Ireland) v Alban Bequri (Albania)
75kg Michael O’Reilly (Ireland) v Pol Sanjin Vrgoc (Croatia)
60kg Sean McComb (Ireland) v Tymur Beliak (Ukraine)
49kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) v Tinko Banabakov (Bulgaria)
51kg Ceire Smith (Ireland) v Camilla Johansen (Norway)
91kg + Dean Gardiner (Ireland) v Guido Vianello (Italy)
54kg Michaela Walsh (Ireland) v Elena Saveleva (Russia)
60kg Katie Taylor (Ireland) v Denitsa Eliseeva (Bulgaria)
64kg Dean Walsh (Ireland) v Kamierez Legowski (Poland) or Maxim Badashev (Russia)
You can find the complete draw (male and female) here :