Cool as she liked it. In her first championship bout since winning Olympic gold in Tokyo 14 months ago, Kellie Harrington secured a unanimous victory over Maiva Hamadouche from France on day one of the European Championships in Budva, Montenegro.
Coming in low-key and under the radar, the Dublin fighter, who turns 33 in December, missed the World Championships in Istanbul back in May due to injury, everything about her opening lightweight performance here suggesting she’s right back to her best.
Harrington was awarded all three rounds by all five judges, each scoring her 10-9 over Hamadouche. The last round got a little scrappy towards the end, Harrington otherwise handling it all with ease for the 5-0 unanimous win.
They’d met before, Harrington also beating Hamadouche 5-0 in the Tokyo Olympic qualifier in Paris earlier last year, the French fighter then returning to the pro ranks for a while, a former IBF World professional champion.
Like that last bout, Harrington was in complete control: entering the ring looking extremely relaxed and composed, there were perhaps some rust marks early on. Hamadouche suffered a cut above her right eye midway through the round, and from there Harrington was never too bothered.
Hamadouche finished strong, Harrington tiring a little, still the unanimous win reflected her superior movement and combination shots which Hamadouche simply couldn’t match.
Harrington did win a tournament in Sofia in February, and looks well on course to add a first European gold to her Olympic title from last year, and World crown from 2018. She previously won European bronze, also in 2018, this win, her 97th amateur fight, extending her record to 79 wins, 17 losses, and one draw.
Earlier, European under-22 featherweight champion Niamh Fay was the other member of the 10-strong Irish team in action on day one, and she too scored a unanimous 5-0 win over Italy’s Sirine Charaabi in the bantamweight division.
From Ballyboughal in north Dublin, Fay had far quicker hands and agility, Charaabi also deducted two points for holding.
Harrington is far from the only Irish contender for medals come finals day on Saturday week. Amy Broadhurst can win a unique hat-trick of gold medals, the Dundalk fighter already having won the light-welterweight title at those World Championships in Istanbul, before adding the Commonwealth Games lightweight title in Birmingham in July.
She returns to light-welterweight here, a non-Olympic category, the 25-year-old again well fancied to win gold having won bronze three years ago, and takes on a Turkish opponent in Sema Caliskan on Sunday
Carly McNaul, the Commonwealth Games silver medallist, begins her championships on Saturday in the flyweight division against Romania, before Tokyo Olympian and Commonwealth featherweight champion Michaela Walsh meets a French opponent.
On Sunday, Aoife O’Rourke begins the defence of her European heavyweight title against a Greek opponent, before middleweight Christina Desmond meets a Ukrainian in the evening session.