(JUNE 5) The Irish boxing
team arrived in Azerbaijan on Wednesday morning and the athletes
have been busy getting used to life in Baku ahead of the start
of competition. Led by head coach Billy Walsh and technical
coach Zaur Antia, Irish boxing is currently enjoying huge
success, spearheaded by record-breaking Olympic Champion Katie
“It drives you on having Katie in the team”, said 20 year-old
bantamweight Kurt Walker at the team’s hotel restaurant. She’s
done so much and is so down-to-earth. Its good to have someone
there like her, a big champion.” Walker has been training flat
out for twelve weeks in Dublin to reach peak fitness in time for
the historic Games.
While Taylor completes training with her team, the rest of
Ireland’s boxing medal hopefuls were among the first athletes to
arrive in Baku, part of a deliberate ploy by the team to allow
the young squad time to get over the jet lag and used to the
Azerbaijani summer heat. After a short time to acclimatise, they
were quickly thrown into an intensive training camp with the
Azerbaijan and Bulgarian teams.
“We’re used to big competitions but this is the biggest any of
us have been to”, said Sean McComb, whose first lightweight
fight comes on 16 June. “You can see what all the hype is
Michaela Walsh who took silver in the 2014 Commonwealth Games in
Glasgow is another of the Irish squad hopeful of gaining a medal
in Baku and if at her very best is certainly capable of becoming
a force to be reckoned with whilst the third female in the team
is Cavan's Ceire Smith who has considerable experience at
international level having represented her country in the
World's in Barbados and several major international tournaments.
“This is a young team”, says Head Coach Billy Walsh, “but to get
this kind of experience a year-and-a-half out from the Olympics
is phenomenal. This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There’ll
only ever be one ‘first’ European Games and they’re going to be
a part of history in the making.”
Even more so of course should any of them strike Gold in Baku.
All the news from the inaugural European Games women's boxing
will be here on WBAN as and when we receive it.
As we reported on WBAN in a recent preview, one familiar face
missing from Baku will be Russia's Olympic Silver medallist
(60kg) Sofya Ochigava. The Russian is still recovery from
serious injury sustained in Morocco in 2010 and has recently
undergone a third major surgical procedure (this time in
Germany) following those cruciate ligament problems. That said
she has twice made a comeback inc for London 2012 so I'm sure
that all of the boxing family including her long time 'friend
and foe' Katie Taylor wish her a full recovery in time for the
qualifiers for Rio 2016.