REPORT: World Champions to battle for Olympic spot

Update 6:57pm 31/10/2022: Broadhurst’s mother, Sheila, has contacted Irish-Boxing.com to dispute The Sunday Times’s reporting, confirming that Broadhurst has not yet made a decision on what Olympic weight class she will compete at.

The Muirhevnamor southpaw may still compete at either lightweight or welterweight, with a decision to be made after Broadhurst returns from a break following her gold medal-winning exploits at the European Championships.

Below reads the initial article as published.

Two of Ireland’s World Champions look set to go in direct competition for a spot at the Paris Olympic Games – but perhaps not the two fighters that many would have thought.

It is being reported that reigning light welterweight (63kg) world champion Amy Broadhurst will move further north to the welterweight (66kg) division where she will be joined by light middleweight (70kg) world champion Lisa O’Rourke who is dropping down in weight.

The bombshell information is contained in a piece by Michael Foley in yesterday’s Sunday Times.

Dundalk’s Broadhurst and Castlerea’s O’Rourke both won gold in a sensational hour for Irish boxing at the World Championships in Turkey earlier this year – however, neither were competing in an Olympic weight class.

The six women’s divisions that will be contested at the Paris 2024 Games are: Light Flyweight (50kg), Bantamweight (54kg), Featherweight (57kg), Lightweight (60kg), Welterweight (66kg), and Middleweight (75kg).

Broadhurst has won World, Commonwealth, and European gold in 2022

25-year-old Broadhurst, whose optimum division is lightweight, where she competed at the Commonwealths in Birmingham, had been considering challenging reigning Olympic champion Kellie Harrington for the 60kg berth. However, she told the Irish News in July that there was only a “20 per cent chance I will do 60 kilos now – coming back from the Worlds I wasn’t sure. Part of me was thinking I’ll do it, I’ll take my chance. But then you’re thinking ‘have I got a better chance of going at 66?’ And the answer is yes.”

Now it appears that a decision on 66kg has been made, with Broadhurst telling Foley “what’s for me won’t pass me. If I’m meant to be at the Olympics that’s where I’ll be. At 63kg I’ve been showing I’m able to deal with bigger girls; I’ll probably be happier not having to make weight.”

However, the path to Paris is still not a clear one as 2022 break-out star O’Rourke is set to move down.

The 20-year-old had been in an even trickier Olympic situation as her double European champion sister Aoife O’Rourke rules the Irish roost at middleweight. Direct family competition always seemed unlikely, while it was also unclear if the youngster had the ability to move down to welter. It now seems a 66kg attempt will be made and the competition will be fierce.

O’Rourke stormed to World Gold in May to add to her European U22 gold

Reigning Irish welterweight champion Kaci Rock had a solid first year of Elite International experience, picking up a bronze medal at the European Under-22s in March. Offaly’s Gráinne Walsh looked extremely impressive at the start of the year, appearing to benefit massively in the recalibration of welterweight from 69kg to 66kg, but then suffered the latest in a long line of hand injuries at the Nicolae Linca multi-nations in Romania. Belfast brawler Eireann Nugent is another that may want her hat in the ring having won bronze at the Commonwealths at 70kg despite being more comfortable at the lower weight.

Then there is the small matter of Cork’s Christina Desmond who, stepping in at short notice for the injured Lisa O’Rourke, won a fantastic light middleweight silver as part of Ireland’s record-breaking team at the European Championships last week. The Macroom Garda confirmed on Off The Ball AM on Wednesday that she too will be moving down to 66kg having previously attempted qualification for Rio and Tokyo at 75kg and 69kg respectively.

How a fighter from these – and the many more beyond – will be chosen, remains to be seen. The National Elite Championships are set to take place in January but it is unlikely that it will be as simple as the winner of this tournament being chosen as our representative for the Olympic Qualifiers. While it will probably be a factor, behind-closed-doors assessments within the High Performance Unit may also come into the equation.

Once a decision has been made, the path to the Olympics has, thankfully, been made clearer. With the International Olympic Committee (IOC) set to continue organising the tournament rather than the International Boxing Association (IBA), the convoluted ‘Golden Belt Series’ is no longer a factor. Instead, the European Games in Krakow, Poland next summer will act as the first qualifier followed by two World qualifying tournaments in 2024.

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie