Jack Marley was delighted his European Games played out just as he dreamed and not as he expected.
Not only did the Dublin heavyweight become the first Irish boxer in over 70 years to win a major senior international at the glamorous weight last weekend, but he also used Poland as a Paris pit stop and became the first Irish 92kg fighter to qualify for the Olympics since Cathal O’Grady in 1996.
It was the stuff of fantasy for the 20-year-old Monkstown fighter and an outcome he was overjoyed with.
“There are what I hoped but not what I expected,” he responded when asked about his final thoughts on the multi-sport tournament.
“I am over the moon.”
The former underage standout announced himself on the elite senior international scene with his brilliant displays at the Nowy Targ Arena.
He first got revenge over Vagkan Nanitzanian, the experienced Greek fighter, who defeated him at his first World Championships, victory over an established professional heavy in Croat Marko Calic followed and secured him a bronze.
However, unlike the likes of Kellie Harrington, Dean Clancy and Michaela Walsh a quarter-final bert wasn’t enough to ensure the latest ‘Big Jack’ of Irish sport a place on the plane to Paris 2024. Marley needed one more big win to ensure he was Olympic bound.
The Sallynoggin boxer got it by coming from behind to beat a European Championship silver medal winner, who ended Ireland’s heavyweight Olympic dream in the last cycle, in Spain’s Enmanual Reyes Pla.
That win in particular, prompted some to suggest the 20-year-old is already genuine Olympic medal hope in a division most don’t find their way in until they are closer to 30 – and as he points out there is a lot more time to grow, learn and improve.
🗣"I still can't wrap my head around it."— Off The Ball (@offtheball) July 3, 2023
🗣"Ever since I put on my first pair of gloves [this was the dream]."
For the first time in 27 years, Ireland will have a heavyweight boxer at the Olympics thanks to Jack Marley! pic.twitter.com/zCTdDC3Ejs
“This is just a stepping stone, we took baby steps here. We have 14 or 14 months to get ready. I’ve learnt a lot from this tournament and we know what to expect in Paris.”
Marley couldn’t quite step onto the top of the podium as Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine of Italy proved a step too far this time around.
The Italian World Championships silver and European Championships gold medal winner outpointed the Dub in the final.
“It wasn’t the final we were hoping for,” he admitted before deciding to look on the bright side. “But I’m going to Paris and I’m a European silver medalist I can’t complain.”