All hail new king
Kenny Egan's dream of an 11th senior title shattered by 17-year-old Joe Ward
Boxing again underlined its position as the most unforgiving of sports at last night's National Elite Championships at the National Stadium.
Few who packed the famous venue on Dublin's South Circular Road foresaw the destruction of Ireland's Olympic silver medalist and team captain, Kenny Egan, who entered the ring in search of a historic 11th consecutive title.
But 17-year-old Joe Ward from Moate wasn't respecting sentiment or tradition when he came out of the blue corner and took the fight to Ireland's most illustrious champion.
Egan employed his rapid-fire left jab, peppering his opponent, but Ward was relentless.
The World Youth champion, who recently won the Irish Youth championship when his semi-final and final opponents both threw in the towel, hustled and harried the Neilstown man who's been fighting out of Miami in the World Series of Boxing initiative.
Ward landed some big blows that upset Egan's gameplan and as the champion began to drop his head and shoulder he received two costly public reprimands from referee Sadie Duffy.
With Kenny's free-flowing point-scoring style under pressure, Ward added injury to insult by flooring the champion twice with almighty punches. The bout ended 11-6.
And Ward was announced Irish light-heavyweight (81kg) champion.
"I was 2-1 up after the first round and then he was beating me 4-2 in the second, but I knew I would never give up," said a relaxed Ward afterwards.
"He deserved the two public warnings. But they made no difference. I still beat him by a point even if they weren't there."
Ward, unnaturally composed for a 17-year-old, reminded me that he told the Herald weeks ago that he would cause a sensation.
"I told you my power would make a difference," he explained. "I knew he was starting to wobble with every shot I hit him. I deserved a lot more points than I got.
"But the real man came on top. I knew I was going to do it. People said I mightn't be good enough or that I mightn't be mature enough, but I'm a mature 17-year-old and, trust me, I'm one hell of a tough man as well."
With Ward now going forward as Irish champion to the World Championships in Baku in September seeking Olympic qualification, it looks as if Egan's dreams of further Olympic glory are in tatters.
Egan's impressive form in the World Series of Boxing might yet count for something in the race for London 2012. But last night's defeat was a shock to the system. Not just of Kenny Egan but also to Irish boxing.
Ross Hickey claimed the light-welterweight belt by outboxing Philip Sutcliffe and forcing the Crumlin club man to take two standing counts in a bruising three-round battle. The Grangecon boxer also won the Boxer of the Tournament award.
"I just got into the zone," he said. "He's very strong and really a very good boxer, so I had to be at my best.
"I always wanted to win but to get Best Boxer in Ireland, it's crazy."
Olympic Bronze medalist Paddy Barnes imposed his skill on Evan Metcafe (Crumlin) to win 9-1 in the light-flyweight division and put himself on the road to London 2012.
"I was sloppy," complained the Holy Family Belfast perfectionist. "I'm not thinking of the Olympics. World gold is my aim and with that comes Olympic qualification. I want to be World Champion."