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No such thing as a sure thing but Irish Olympic boxers Joe Ward and Katie Taylor are close

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Joe Ward is consoled by Turkey's Bahram Muzaffer after that fight.

There are no certainties in life, never mind in sport. We all know that and there are times when we all have to accept as much.

This is such a time for the young Irish boxer Joe Ward. And for Katie Taylor. A time for reality as the London Olympic games approach.

Ward was going to be the great Irish hope in the male ranks when the bell sounds on the boxing events in England’s capital.

He may be just 18, but he is the man who put silver medalist Kenny Egan back in his box, not once but twice, at the national championships.

He is the man who was going to blaze a trail for Irish boxing at the Olympic qualifiers in Turkey this week when he would secure a berth in London and serve notice to the world of his gold medal intentions.
He was the male equivalent of Katie Taylor, the young woman from Bray of whom such high hopes are expected come August.

Katie you should know about.  She has been world champion for so many years now it is hard to remember the number.

She has beaten everything put in front of her on the Irish stage, the European stage and the world stage.
She is such a good boxer that many people believe her skills alone are the reason women will box for gold medals for the first time ever at an Olympics this coming summer.

And she is, as you can imagine, a massive star at home in Ireland.

Young girls want to be like Katie Taylor. Several young boys want to meet her.

All the country expects her to bring home a gold medal from the capital of England in less than a hundred days time.
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Therein lies the problem – expectations, great expectations which can weigh down so heavily on sportsmen and women of any age and any talent.

Expectations which can outweigh the greatest reality, even for a boxer as good as Katie Taylor or Joe Ward.

A few weeks from now Taylor will put her Olympic hopes on the line in a qualifying tournament in China. Events in Turkey on Monday night will have made her sit up and pay attention before she travels east.
Ward was a sure thing going to the Turkish city of Trabzon this week. Or so we all thought.

All he had to do was show up for the light-heavyweight qualifiers, beat a few other young fellas about the head and book his flight to London.

It didn’t work out that way.

Fate decided that Joe Ward, the man who toppled Kenny Egan, would meet Bahram Muzaffer in Monday night’s last 16 contest, a man toppled by the aforementioned Kenny Egan in the Beijing Olympics almost four years ago.

The Irish script for this story never arrived in Trabzon. Instead they opted for the Turkish script, quite understandable considering Muzaffer is a local, asked only to fight in front of his hometown fans for the right to edge a step closer to the London Olympics.

Those who know their boxing say that Ward won Monday night’s fight. Those who score their boxing -- i.e. the three ringside judges -- say that Muzaffer won the fight by three points and the final round by two.
Irish ire was rife in the Turkish city late on Monday. The Irish Amateur Boxing Association complained of a hometown verdict. They complained publicly and they complained officially.

Their initial complaints were dismissed by the Olympic movement. At the time of writing they are investigating other ways to try and reverse the decision, to try and keep Ward’s Olympic dream alive.

Sadly, I fear they are wasting their time. There is no way any Olympic committee is going to go against judges who voted for a Turkish boxer in a Turkish venue. It just doesn’t happen.

Ward may have been a sure thing in our eyes, but he was nobody next to a local favorite in a distant Turkish ring. That’s the inevitability of all this, that’s the truth when expectation comes up against cold reality.

Taylor is still a sure thing for the Olympics. For now that is.

She must go to China a few weeks from now, and chances are she might meet a Chinese girl in a Chinese ring.

Sport is like that but at least, thanks to Ward’s pain, she is forewarned and forearmed.

As Celtic manager Neil Lennon discovered, again, in Glasgow on Sunday, you just have to accept a referee’s decision. And get on with it.

Life is like that. So is sport. There are no guarantees. None.

Sideline Views

SOCCER: Glad to report that the Bolton midfielder Fabrice Muamba has left the London Chest Hospital and is now recovering at home after his recent cardiac arrest on the pitch during an FA Cup game at Spurs. Muamba is one of the lucky ones. Another young hurler collapsed and died during a training session in London last week and a Serie B player died in Italy at the weekend.

Let’s hope and pray that Muamba makes a full recovery. Whether or not he plays football again is fairly irrelevant in the circumstances.

SOCCER:
A man I know who watches MLS soccer on the ESPN network reckons Robbie Keane is playing great stuff for the LA Galaxy at present, and that can only be good news for Giovanni Trapattoni and Ireland ahead of the European Championships. Robbie has slipped off the media radar here somewhat since his return to California from Aston Villa but the current reports, via satellite television of course, are encouraging.

As I have said many times here before, Ireland’s Euro hopes depend on Robbie Keane. Pure and simple.

GAA: The Meath clubs are about to vote Sean Boylan back into power as their county team boss and that is a welcome move – the legend that is Boylan should have had the job for life as far as I am concerned. What’s interesting though is how Boylan is going to deal with the current crop of Meath players.

Any manager, even Seamus McEnaney for all his faults, is only as good as the players available to him. And this lot aren’t much good -- as Banty will tell you.

SOCCER: There’s a huge clamor for goal-line technology in England again after a contentious goal for Chelsea against Spurs in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Saturday night. Having watched the replay a good few times, I do now think the goal was legitimate. And I don’t agree with the over-rated Adebayor that it was the reason Spurs lost – the other four goals conceded in a 5-1 defeat may have had something to do with it as well!

SOCCER: Stephen Hunt bemoaned Mick McCarthy’s sacking at Wolves when he appeared on Irish television on Saturday night. Pity he didn’t do a bit more as a Wolves player under Mick’s guidance – then relegation might not be a live issue for the club and Mick might still be the manager. Talk comes cheap in such circumstances.

GAA: Congress went off peacefully in Laois last Saturday just in case you were wondering. The GAA suits did vote to change the square ball rule, and the incoming president Liam O’Neill did promise to tackle violence on the field and payments to managers off it -- as incoming presidents always do to be fair to them.
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HERO OF THE WEEK

The weekend’s Scottish Cup action has been dominated by Neil Lennon’s latest tantrum, but the achievement of Dubliner Pat Fenlon should not be overlooked. The former Bohs boss guided Hibs to the Scottish Cup final when they beat Aberdeen in Saturday’s first semifinal and they will now play Edinburgh rivals Hearts in the decider. Nutsy, as he is known, is doing a great job in his first season as Hibs supreme, and a bit of silverware next month would be the icing on the cake for the affable Dubliner.

IDIOTS OF THE WEEK

There won’t be a Joe show at the London Olympics this summer unless the Irish Amateur Boxing Association can pull off a miracle in their attempts to reverse the decision that went against Joe Ward on Monday night. The judges at the Olympic qualifiers in Turkey seem to be the only ones who thought Ward didn’t win his light-heavyweight contest, and it will come as no surprise to discover that opponent was Turkish – fighting in Turkey. Boxing is never going to rid itself of such stories.

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