THE most eagerly-anticipated Irish Elite Boxing Championships in quite some time begin this weekend with the draw for the 2023 competition made on Tuesday.
There aren’t just national titles up for grabs, but the chance to grab a place on the Irish team that will had to this summer’s European Games in Poland at stake that will be the first chance to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, so in many ways, the road to Paris begins now.
There are a host of locals in preliminary, quarter-final and semi-final action this week with the boxing set to begin on Friday evening.
Perhaps the bout that jumps straight off the page will take place on Saturday in the women’s 50kg division as Carly McNaul faces Caitlin Fryers in a cross-city clash.
McNaul, from the Ormeau Road club, chimed her second Commonwealth Games silver medal last summer in Birmingham and claimed another Ulster title just before Christmas, but comes up against Immaculata’s Fryers who really came of age last year when taking silver at the European Championships.
Commonwealth gold medallist Michaela Walsh also enters the fray on Saturday with a 57kg semi-final against Dublin’s Kellie McLoughlin.
Star ABC’s Lee McKee will be the first of the Belfast fighters in action in the second bout on Friday as he faces a 60kg preliminary bout against Erne’s Rhys Owens with the winner to tangle with Dublin’s Adam Courtney in Saturday’s quarter-final, while Holy Trinity’s Teo Alin faces Davey Joyce in Saturday’s quarters.
McKee’s clubmate, John Paul Hale is in the 63.5kg division and the Commonwealth Games’ representative will be in quarter-final action on Friday against Monkstown’s Daryl Clarke in what is something of a local derby, with the winner set to face either James McDonagh or Dean Clancy.
Aidan Walsh, who claimed gold in Birmingham last summer, could be in line for a showdown with Dean Walsh in the 71kg as he received a bye into next Friday’s semi-final and his namesake up against Igo Blazhenko in this weekend’s quarter-final.
Holy Trinity’s Jon McConnell is on the opposite side of the draw with his semi-final against Matthew McCole set for next Friday along with the remaining last four bouts ahead of next Saturday’s finals at the National Stadium in Dublin.