World champions: Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O’Rourke win gold medals

Irish fighters both win their finals bouts at boxing World Championships in Turkey

In one of the greatest 30 minutes in Irish women's sport, Amy Broadhurst and Lisa O'Rourke took ownership of the first night of finals at the World Championships at the Sinan Erdem Dome in Istanbul and made history.

The two Irish boxers, Broadhurst at 25-years-old and O’Rourke, who turned 20-years-old last weekend and in her first major championship, won unanimous and split decisions respectively to become world champions for the first time in their careers as well as $100,000 richer.

In Ireland, just Katie Taylor with five world crowns and Kellie Harrington with one from 2018 have had experience of what it's like to be on top of the world of women's boxing.

It is also a first in that no two Irish boxers have won gold medals at the same world championships, or, in quite the dramatic fashion as Broadhurst and O’Rourke.


It has never happened that an Irish fighter has followed another straight into the ring to pull off a sensational world gold medal double in the space of a high octane half hour.

Broadhurst was the fourth bout scheduled for the evening session and O’Rourke the fifth.

The older of the two, Broadhurst, defeated Algeria’s Imane Khelif, winning her three rounds for an overall 5-0 score with O’Rourke taking four of the five judges with her in a 4-1 win over Mozambique’s Alcinda Panguane.

Afterwards O’Rourke flung herself onto the ropes at the corner towards Irish coaches Zaur Antia and John Conlan, while Broadhurst stood in almost disbelief in the centre of the ring popping her guns and like O’Rourke unable to take the dazed smile off her face.

It is an astonishing achievement for the Irish boxing team with the two gold medal winners graduating from the Irish squad that had trained before the last Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Recognising their potential for the 2024 Olympic Games, former high performance director of Irish boxing, Bernard Dunne, had brought both Broadhurst and O'Rourke into his pre-Olympic camp in 2021.

But few could have predicted what unfolded with Roscommon county footballer O’Rourke barely out of her teens and Broadhurst experiencing for the first time what it was like to compete after the quarter-final stage.

Not so bad

As both showed it was not so bad, Broadhurst setting the championship winning tone against the tall, rangy Algerian Khelif in the light welterweight final.

Awkward was the written all over the body language of Khelif, who was also in her first world final.

Inches taller than her Irish opponent, it was Broadhurst who was the more aggressive coming forward and working to get inside and beyond the long levers of her opponent.

The match was even over the first three minutes with Broadhurst impressing with her industry, landing a few lefts towards the end which just tipped the first round in her favour. Although it was close the five judges split 3-2 in favour of the Irish boxer.

With her guard high and her natural strength against an opponent who wanted to fight from a distance, Broadhurst again began to work her way past the Khelif jab and appeared to score more heavily in the exchanges.

Like the first round in that it was tight, the judges again had Broadhurst winning the exchanges and slightly ahead.

Two judges had it drawn, two had Broadhurst ahead and one had Khelif leading. What that added up to was a massive final round required from the Algerian. But Broadhurst refused to let it happen and continued the same high guard, pushing her opponent back and moving in for the right left combinations.

Again the St Bronagh’s, Rostrevor boxer edged it and she knew it, the referee finally raising her arm only a matter of seconds before O’Rourke began her ring walk from the locker room at the back of the stadium for her light middleweight final.

A different bout entirely but no less impressive, O’Rourke fought and slipped the punches as she had done throughout the competition against her African opponent.

Her incredible fitness kept her constantly moving and scoring, Panguane, the southpaw trying to close the ring and put her opponent, younger by eight years, under pressure.

Although O’Rourke was backing off and scoring with raids, it wasn’t because Panguane was forcing it and the better scoring shots in the exchanges had Ireland 3-2 ahead after the first round.

Again in the second round O’Rourke’s southpaw opponent pressed while she continued to score on the move and not abandon the method that had her ahead two thirds of the way into her first world final.

While there were no big shots that might have turned it decisively Ireland’s way, the cumulative scoring from the free-flowing O’Rourke began to tell as she led going into the third round.

Panguane then planted her feet more firmly but O’Rourke with her left jab and backhand right just kept building a bigger and bigger score. It was three close rounds, but three where Ireland shaded it 4-1 on the judge’s cards.

Ireland have now doubled the number of boxers who have become world champions, again showing that the sport knows how to prepare and present athletes better than any other.

Women’s Irish boxing has now a higher profile than men after the recent runs of success including Harrington’s gold medal win in Tokyo and Taylor’s New York win over Amanda Serrano in the professional ranks a few weeks ago.

After an astonishing night in Turkey, Taylor, Harrington and Michael Conlan, all Irish world championship gold medal winners, now have company.

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson

Johnny Watterson is a sports writer with The Irish Times