BY CHRIS MCNULTY
A DOUBLE carrot dangles before Finn Valley heavyweight Michael Gallagher in Sofia on Monday.
Gallagher takes on Cuban’s highly-rated Yordan Hernandez in a quarter-final at the World Youth Championships. When Gallagher takes to the canvas in the Armeec Arena, he is fighting for not only the prize of at least a bronze medal but also bidding for a win that would seal qualification to the Youth Olympics, held in China in August.
Gallagher defeated Britain’s Connall McDonald in the last sixteen to bring himself to within a fight of a medal.
The stylish Finn Valley bruiser advanced past McDonald on a split decision. Two of the judges had Gallagher as the 30-27 winner, with the other having it 29-28 in favour of Scottish fighter McDonald.
Gallagher’s power-packed punches landed decisive blows on McDonald, catching his opponent with some of his famed blockbusters. McDonald did all he could to score, but Gallagher held him at bay to move into the last eight.
Now, Gallagher stands just one win away from at least bronze and an automatic place at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
He meets Hernandez, one of the brightest lights in Cuba. Under the guidance of Humberto Horta, Hernandez was unbeaten in 2013 and he took victory in the Khayrutdinov Cup, held in Kazakhstan in December, when he defeated home fighter Ablay Baktorazov in the final.
In Sofia, the top five (the semi-finalists and the quarter-finalist who was beaten by the eventual gold medallist) in each of the ten weight categories will qualify for China and Gallagher is within touching distance.
Ten-time Irish champion Gallagher won a bronze medal at the 2010 European Schoolboy Championships and in February he won a bronze at the VII International Youth Tournament, the ‘Nikolay Pavlyukov Memorial’, in Anapa.
He opened his World Youth Championships on Thursday afternoon when he overcame Canadian Evagelos Frangos.
Gallagher won by a split decision in their round of 32 contest. Gallagher was well in control of the bout and the only surprise was that he hadn’t been given a unanimous decision. He took a technical count in the first round of this encounter after he called for some attention for a nose bleed, but he was the dominant force through the contest.