Ireland coach Billy Walsh has hailed his elite boxing squad as five fighters have now qualified for the quarter-finals of the World Championships in Kazakhstan.
Michael Conlan, Tommy McCarthy and Jason Quigley had already qualified for the last-eight and were joined today by light-heavyweight Joe Ward and flyweight Paddy Barnes.
Belfast's Barnes dropped Nziok with a sweet left hook in the second minute of the opening round and the referee called a halt to proceedings.
Ward comfortably booked his place in the quarters with a unanimous points victory over Hungary’s Norbert Harsca.
And speaking to former Olympic silver medallist Kenneth Egan at ringside in Almaty, the Irish coach was full of praise for the five fighters who are now just one victory away from a medal at the prestigious tournament.
Walsh said: “It’s a great day. We’re hopeful that we’ll get a few of the lads over the line tomorrow and break that voodoo of only winning one medal at a major (world championships) tournament.
“We’re really up for it; the boys are in great shape. Paddy (Barnes) is the smallest in the team but is the biggest hitter, the biggest puncher on the team. And I think the extra few kilos has really helped him.”
And Walsh heaped praise on light-heavyweight Ward who has come through a turbulent twelve months to make it through to the last-eight in Kazakhstan.
Walsh said: “Considering what he has been through over the last year as regards dislocating his knee, hand injuries and losing Olympic qualification on a bad decision, he’s gone through a hell of a lot and its great to have him back now and fighting for a place for a medal.”
"Paddy is the smallest in the team but is the biggest hitter." - Billy Walsh
The only disappointment in the ring today was the defeat of lightweight Sean McComb but Walsh believes that the Belfast man will learn from the experience.
Walsh said: “He could have won it. It was there for the taking but he just didn’t do enough in the last round. He didn’t force the fight enough, did a bit too much running and counter-punching.
“He was very unlucky, he’s a young lad and his first time at a major championships so he’ll learn a hell of a lot from this.”
And as the business end of tournament approaches, Walsh emphasised the ambition running throughout Irish boxing and he wants to see some of his team reaching the Almaty finals.
“It’s a massive day tomorrow, really busy day and that’s what we’re here for,” said Walsh. “We want to be here for the last day. We don’t want to be here watching everyone else fighting. We want to see Irishmen in the finals.”
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