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


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.