Michaela Walsh and Kellie Harrington’s bid to become the only Irish female fighters beside Katie Taylor to reach a European Elite final ended on split decision reversals in Sofia, Bulgaria yesterday.
Dublin lightweight Harrington was beaten 4-1 by Finland’s Mira Potkonen, who beat Taylor at the Rio Olympics, and Belfast feather Walsh was edged on a 3-2 split by Russia’s Daria Abramova in the semi-finals of the 11th edition of the tournament.
Both Irish fighters will be bringing home bronze from the Bulgarian capital and they’ve improved Ireland’s all-time haul (male and female) at this level to 61 medals since the 1939 Europeans at Dublin’s National Stadium. Harrington’s punching was fluent throughout her three-rounder, but Potkonen’s heavier shots, which tend to impress judges more under pro style 10-point must scoring, maintained her two-year unbeaten run.
Walsh’s bout with Abramova, who beat Potkonen in the 2016 light European final but who has since dropped down to feather, was equally as tight. Walsh’s jab was potent in all three frames, while the Russian worked solidly on the inside.
Antrim’s current EU champion got the better of an all-out dust up approaching the final bell, but three of the five judges opted for Abramova who is aiming to becoming a two-weight European champion.
Both Irish woman have qualified for next year’s European Games in Belarus by virtue of finishing in the top 10 in Sofia. The Ulster and Leinster pair will be presented with their medals today.
Irish female boxing has won 10 medals — Katie Taylor, who has turned pro (six gold), four bronze for Walsh, Harrington, Clare Grace and Christina Desmond — since the inaugural European Women’s Elites in 2001.
Ireland head coach Zaur Antia and Irish coach Dmitry Dimitruk were working Ireland’s corner in Sofia. Bernard Dunne, IABA high-performance director, is Irish team manager.
Meanwhile, former world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury has been added to the Carl Frampton undercard in Windsor Park, Belfast on August 18. Lebanon-born Manuel Charr is being touted as Fury’s likely opponent.