Four Irish fighters guarantee at least bronze medals at European Boxing Championships

Shannon Sweeney, Michaela Walsh, Amy Broadhurst and Christina Desmond all through to semi-finals in Montenegro

Again women’s boxing will have to take a step back and breath. Following two newly minted world champions in Istanbul earlier this year, Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke, four of the five Irish boxers who entered Tuesday’s quarter-finals of the European Boxing Championships in Budva, Montenegro advanced with bronze medals and a chance of winning silver or gold in the coming days.

Of the nine Irish boxers that qualified for quarter-finals, four more are due to box on Wednesday, including Olympic champion Kellie Harrington in what is fast becoming an unprecedented European success story for the Irish athletes.

Minimum weight 48kg Shannon Sweeney, featherweight Michaela Walsh, light-welterweight Amy Broadhurst and light-middleweight Christina Desmond all won their bouts and advanced in the draw with guaranteed bronze medals.

The one casualty, 33-year-old Carly McNaul bravely fell out of the tournament after meeting a tough Italian opponent Olena Savchuk in the flyweight division.


All impressed in their own way with Sweeney’s speed and clean shots and Broadhurst’s power punching both stopping their opponents before the third rounds.

Mayo southpaw Sweeney forced three standing counts from the referee in the first two rounds against Slovakian Nicole Durikova, which automatically brought her bout to a close.

Well ahead on all five judges’ scoring cards when the contest was stopped, the first standing count arrived at the end of round one. Not taking to kindly to the referee’s decision, the second round was more painful for Durikova with a backhand left forcing another standing count before a third stopped the contest.

Broadhurst was in an equally punishing mode against Serbia’s Milena Matovic. From the off the Dundalk athlete made her power count in every exchange and within 30 seconds of the first round the referee was standing Matovic to a count of 10.

Driving her opponent back in almost every contact, Broadhurst was dominant. Then within seconds of the second round beginning Matovic was again reeling backwards across the ring, the ropes stopping her from what would have been a knock down. Within seconds of that Broadhurst painfully struck again. By then the referee had seen enough and stepped in a minute and 43 seconds into the second round to put an end to the fight.

Three stoppages and a forceful display from the Dundalk boxer, a career second bronze medal for the world champion to add to the one she earned in Alcobendas in 2019 and passage into the semi-final.

While stoppages impressed in two of the bouts, Walsh and Desmond also went about their business impressively, Belfast’s Walsh the second of the Irish team to advance to the semi-finals and secure the bronze medal.

The featherweight, a gold medallist at this year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, controlled all three rounds against Romanian Claudia Nechita to secure the podium place and a 4-1 points win.

Walsh faced an aggressive Nechita in the opening minutes but remained composed, rolling out of distance and scoring on her way. While the Romanian had some snap to her shots, Walsh’s experience and guile kept her scoring and moving.

She won the first round on three of the five scoring cards and with much the same tactics took the second round on four of the five cards. Such a lead demanded a huge final round from Nechita and she brought up the urgency.

But Walsh was up to the task and had her best round of the bout, landing sharp counter strikes and declining the possibility of a brawl. All five judges gave her round three for the 4-1 win, the bronze medal and a crack at making the European final.

Macroom’s Desmond, without ceremony, then stepped up in one of the final bouts of the day to meet Sweden’s Malena Hede. The Irish light-middleweight quickly got down to business in a scrappy first round but one where the Irish boxer was landing the cleaner punches.

The Irish southpaw continued in that vein but with a noticeably higher tempo in the second round, opening the exchanges with two accurate left hands. The Swede really had little to offer and by the end of the round Desmond was landing short combinations, enough at least to persuade the judges, all five, to score the round 10-8 in her favour.

That called for a mighty third round from Hede which never materialised. Instead, more of the same from Desmond, leading with her right and following in with left hooks and plenty of them finding the scoring mark.

Again, the judges all went with the Irish athlete for a 5-0 win, gifting the fourth Irish boxer of five a passage through to the semi-final stage of the competition.

In all a historic boxing day with four more Irish – Aoife O’Rourke, Kaci Rock, Caitlin Fryers and Olympic champion Harrington – all in quarter-final bouts today.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times