BY CHRIS MCNULTY
DONEGAL heavyweight Michael Gallagher has a chance of a bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games in China this afternoon when he faces Korean Jin-Nyong Kim.
The 18-year-old Finn Valley ABC man takes on Jin-Nyong in a box-off for a bronze medal after he suffered a gallant defeat against Cuba’s World gold medallist, Yordan Hernandez.
All is not lost for the hammer-handed Kinletter teenager as he faces Jin-Nyong in the International Exhibition Centre in Nanjing.
Gallagher and Hernandez’s paths had crossed earlier in the year when they met in a quarter-final at the World Youth Championships in Sofia. On that occasion, Gallagher emptied the tank, but suffered a unanimous defeat.
Yesterday, Gallagher again rose to the challenge, but judges Fuad Aslanov, Natalya Tsoy and Evangelos Bougioukas all scored the bout 30-27 in favour of the Cuban kingpin.
Hernandez knew he was in a contest, though, as Gallagher reminded every so often with a couple of trademark power punches. Gallagher caught Hernandez with the last blow of the opening round, a cracking left jab, but it was Hernandez who got the nod from the three ringside judges.
Gallagher continued to keep the pressure on during the second instalment, but it was again Hernandez who got the scores. The big Ballybofey bruiser didn’t wilt and attempt to land a sting, but the cute Cuban was able to see it out.
It was a display that marked the card of Hernandez and another outlining that Gallagher is at home on the big stage.
“I thought that Michael won the first round against a very good Cuban boxer and the second could have gone either way,” said the Irish team manager in Nanjing, Stephen Connolly.
“In fairness, the Cuban lad won the third, but it was a very good performance from Michael.”
Gallagher now faces Jin-Nyong, who lost his semi to Toni Filipi of Croatia, with a bronze medal the carrot. This is a new departure with previous Championships having given bronze to both losing semi-finalists, but now those beaten on the penultimate step must rise to the canvas again and Gallagher will aim for a place on the podium around 2.15 Irish time today.
Gallagher qualified for the semi-finals after defeating Maksim Kazlou from Belarus via a unanimous decision on Saturday.
Ten-time Irish champion Gallagher, who booked his place at the Games through a box-off at the World Youth Championships in Sofia, was impressive against Kazlou, a boxer always looking to fight off the front foot.
His win was as comfortable as the judges’ scorecards suggest, Gallagher given all three rounds by Italian Maria Rizzardo and Denmark’s Claus Bedemann.
While Vietnam’s Trong Nghia Vuong gave Kazlou the edge in the first round, he too sided with Gallagher for the second and third stanzas, meaning a 30-27, 29-28, 30-27 win for the Kinletter man.
“It was a good performance from Michael against an opponent that never stopped coming forward,” said Connolly.
Gallagher is joined in the Irish squad by Christina Desmond of Cork and Mayo woman Ciara Ginity. Desmond also boxes in a bronze box-off when she faces Australia’s Caitlin Parker after coming off second best against Nien-Chin Chen in the middleweight semi-final.
Lightweight Ginty, from the Geesala club, takes on Jajaira Gonzalez in Tuesday’s final after overcoming Turkey’s Esra Yildiz.
Gallagher’s fight can be viewed live on www.olympic.tv at around 2.15 Irish time.
Peter O’Donnell, the President of the Donegal Boxing Board, said: “We’d like to wish Michael the very best of luck in his box-off. It is a great achievement to have qualified for the Youth Olympics and it would be a fine reward for all his efforts in the last few months to get a medal.
“An Olympic medal at any level means you’re in with the cream of the crop and that’s where Michael Gallagher is at now. Donegal is rooting for him to win it on Monday against the Korean.”
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