Ruthless Ward destroys Egan
Power of European champ leaves Kenny's revenge bid in tatters
It was the most eagerly awaited National Elite Senior Championships in years and last night's action-packed finals at the National Stadium didn't disappoint.
With nine champions from last year in action, including Michael Conlon, John Joe Nevin and Darren O'Neill, who've already achieved qualification for the London Olympics, there was plenty of talent on display. Four of the boxers, O'Neill, Joe Ward, John Joe Nevin and Paddy Barnes, have AIBA top-10 world rankings.
The PA system was pumping out Peter Gabriel's Sledgehammer before the action began and those seven short steps from the dressing rooms to the arena were a stairway to heaven or hell as the action began.
Olympic bronze medallist Barnes was made to work for his 21-17 win over Hugh Myers (Ryston). At 13-14 after the second round, it was only in the third that Barnes pulled away to clinch the deal.
The clash of Nevin cousins, Olympian John Joe (Cavan) and southpaw youth Michael (Portlaoise), was expected by many to be an unequal contest. But Michael gave evidence of being a developing talent in staying the course, despite two standing counts, before a 23-3 score came in for the vastly more experienced John Joe.
John Joe's Cavan club coach Brian McKeown said before the bout: "A lot of people thought he was the dancing master with his fast reflexes, but since he went to Paris he's shown he can slow it down and box in the pro-style. He's able to mix it over five rounds with the best in the world."
Conlon (St John Bosco, Belfast) is already qualified to box for Ireland in London later this year and last night he showed his class, out-pointing a game Chris Phelan (Royston) 19-11.
The old stadium was packed to the rafters. And everyone in the house wanted to see the light-heavyweight showdown between Kenny Egan and Joe Ward. They couldn't have been disappointed with the duel.
Many of the veteran commentators tipped a rejuvenated Egan to claim the record-breaking 11th title that Ward denied him last year. It didn't happen.
Ward's power was backed up by accuracy as he went into an early 9-5 lead. The Irish silver medallist in Beijing was beginning to wilt under the crunching shots from Ward.
At 17-8 going into the third round, it seemed all over for Egan. But he traded punches until the final bell. In the end, his dream was shattered on a 29-10 scoreline.
"He was very strong," said a despondent Egan afterwards. "I have no excuses. It was hard to hit him. It's done now. I shook his hand and wished him the best of luck."
Over the years, Egan has fought some of the best in the world. Sitting in his dressing room last night, the sweat of the contest still running down his face, he said: "Joe (is) one of the strongest boxers I've ever fought. He's also technically brilliant."
Ward wasn't being triumphalist. "Kenny is a great boxer," he said. "I respect him for what he's done. But I knew I was fast enough and good enough to do it. I knew what I was going to do. I stuck to my Plan 'A' and it worked."
Many of the experts had predicted an Egan victory. The pre-final hype didn't effect Ward's performance.
"I know I perform better when I don't have many fights behind me," said Ward. "I love sparring and training but sometimes I get pissed off fighting the whole time. I'm better off just getting in for championship fights. There's loads of improvement in me yet."
Michael McDonagh (St Mary's) and David Oliver Joyce (St Michael's Athy) met in last year's final, with McDonagh edging it 6-5 when Joyce was disqualified for a low blow. Last night, their bout went the distance with McDonagh winning 17-14.