The Irish Athletic Third-level Boxing Association (IATBA) had a very successful trip to Italy where they participated in two boxing matches against an Italian Select whilst also availing of the opportunity to broaden their knowledge of the historical values that Italy has to offer.
They visited the Vatican (Pope Francis wasn’t available to meet them) and took in a tour of its environs including St.Peters Basilica while admiring the beautiful work of Michelangelo in his painting of the Sistine Chapel.
No trip to Italy for our young gladiators would be complete without a visit to see the colosseum where gladiators of the past battled it out for supremacy.
The business side of the trip was two competitive boxing matches for the IATBA Select against an Italian Select.
The first of these was on Friday, June 23rd, where they faced off in an open air show in Fonteblanda. Following the parade of boxers and the National anthems, the action got under way.
Nathan Fleet was first in the ring and had to change to exhibition as his original opponent fell off a horse the previous day. Nathan worked the ring excellently and used his superior skills to control everything from start to finish. He has a great understanding of distance and movement in the ring and if he keeps training hard over the next few months, he will cause upsets at the National Championships.
Kenneth Doyle faced Gabriel Garcia in our next contest and he used his reach to good effect to keep Garcia at bay for most of the bout. Although boxing with a low guard, Kenneth was flexible enough to avoid most attacks coming from Garcia. Over the three rounds, his better ringcraft and punches shone through to give him our first win of the night.
Fionn Gill, who was guesting for the IATBA, was next up and he faced the 2016 European Schoolboys Champion, Alessio Genovese. The Ardnaree boxer had to deal with some wild swings from Genovese yet refused to be put off. He nailed the Italian with a straight backhand that nearly took his head off. His confidence was up and he used great movement to avoid many of the oncoming attacks from the Italian. After three pulsating rounds, Genovese got the nod but Gill now knows he can match it with Europe’s best!
Shane Flavin went in next against Riccardo D’Andrae and after three rounds of controlled boxing where he did the simple things well, Flavin was adjudged to have lost the contest. This was an example of sticking to our mantra of getting the performance right and letting others worry about the decision. Shane Flavins performance was perfect and he can walk away content in the knowledge that he did what he came to do.
Patryk Adamus was next up and he faced Halit Eryilmaz. The first was a cagey round with both boxers probing and looking for weaknesses. The second saw more intent from Adamus and although landing some good shots, he kept his hands too low and got caught with shots also. The third was a close round again and coming into the last thirty seconds, it was there to be won by the man who was hungrier. When the decision was announced, Halit got it and Adamus knew it was one that got away.
Gary McKenna was next in action for the IATBA Select and the team captain didn’t disappoint with an all action display. He faced Riccardo Cimmino in a battle of two punchers. McKenna used all his experience to land big shots to the body after rolling inside his opponents attacks. Whilst hitting to the body, his finishing to the head was clinical and the shots were telling as Cimmino wasn’t as willing to come forward half way through the second as he was previously. Gary McKenna kept pressuring Cimmino and allowed him few breaks with his all action style. The only respite Cimmino got was when McKenna covered up in range and allowed an Italian attack. After three very entertaining rounds, the referee raised the Irish team captains hand to the delight of the away team.
The ‘Kilnamanagh Express’, James Clarke, was next up for the IATBA select. He faced an experienced Italian squad member in Tommaso Rossano. Clarke used his jab to great effect early on keeping the experienced Rossano at a safe distance whilst also blocking most upper body and head attacks from Rossano. As the contest wore on, Rossano crept into it more as Clarke only got a last minute call to go and hadn’t been training properly with this trip in mind. His focus was long term and this was very, very short term! However, he refused to buckle and kept punching with the Italian for the full three rounds. When the contest ended, Rossano got the decision but James Clarke would have taken more away in terms of performance. This was a huge step on his road back to full fitness.
Mark McCole was our last boxer in action and the Dungloe man faced Simone Giorgetti from Grosseto, Italy. Giorgetti was slightly shorter in height but was intent on fighting in close (very close) where his head was in almost constant contact with McCole. McCole tried turning his opponent from the southpaw stance but the orthodox Italian kept charging forward and using his head dangerously on the inside. In round two the Italian nicked McCole above his right eye and despite a protest to the referee by McCole, the in close action leading with the head was allowed continue. By the end of the third, McCole had to punch and move constantly to try avoid the constant ambush by Giorgetti and his head first attacks. The decision went to the Italian as McCole went to the doctor to get steri stitches applied to his cut.
Overall it was a good night in terms of performances by the Irish boxers. The results may have been lacking but those are things that are outside the boxers control so we don’t worry about them!
The second day of boxing took place on Sunday, June 25th, and after the team attended morning mass and got a blessing from the priest, they hoped for better luck that night.
The action again took place outside and with a 9:30pm start, the temperature was ideal for boxing.
This time James Clarke was in first for the Irish Team and he gave his Italian opponent Tommaso Rossano more than he wanted. Clarke hit him with stiff jabs and backhands throughout the contest and appeared to have him hurt at one stage but the experienced Rossano survived. Clarke was using his defensive skills excellently and was able to fend off most of what came his way. Again, after three cracking rounds of heavyweight boxing, Rossano got the nod, but only just. He’ll be glad he didn’t have a third bout with Clarke as there’s nothing surer than Clarke was improving rapidly from their first bout and would more than likely take the verdict if a third battle was in the offing.
Shane Flavin boxed next and again after three rounds of controlled boxing where he used his superior skillset of hit and don’t get hit, he was adjudged to have lost! Boxing decisions can be baffling at times and the simple facts from AIBA that you must land better quality punches on the target area, dominate the bout with technique and tactics, and show competitiveness, seems to be lost on many people! Shane can walk away with his head held high knowing he did his job between the ropes.
Patryk Adamus was next in and he brought more intensity to the ring this time. His defence was much tighter with his hands predominately carried higher than the first night. He kept probing his opponent looking for openings. He landed some good hooks with straight shots but the Italian wasn’t just there to make up the numbers! As the rounds wore on, this contest became more even and like the first night, it was almost a case of who wanted it most. Adamus kept forcing the issue and trying every punch to break his Italians confidence, but to no avail. After the three rounds ended, both boxers stood in the centre of the ring hoping their hand was going up but when a hand did go up, it was the Italians. Patryk Adamus will be pleased with this performance as it was an improvement from his first night and he took on board many of the suggestions made to him following that bout.
Alfred Ololabi was next in action and he faced Italian boxer Luca Buratta from the local area. Buratta came out strong and landed some good shots to the head. Ololabi used his long range hooks to avoid Burattas attacks but the local man spurred on by a vociferous crowd, refused to be put off. The referee handed a count to Ololabi after a few big body shots from Buratta. In the second, Buratta continued to press and Ololabi had to stay clever to avoid further punishment. He got another standing count in the second and as the last round came to a close he got another and it was a case of survival. This he did and after a few days of sickness, Ololabi was relieved to have made it into the ring and then got the three rounds in against the tough Buratta.
Kenneth Doyle was next in action and he continued where he left off the first night. He bossed the ring using a better quality jab and better footwork to get in when needed and get out when needed also. As this contest wore on, Doyle wore his opponent down with cracking right hooks to the body. These telling punches took the wind out of his opponent Gabriel Garcia’s sails and set the platform for another great win. Kenneth Doyle’s confidence between the ropes is improving all the time and the IATBA Champion is now looking forward to the next third level season with renewed vigour.
Fionn Gill was next in action and he faced off again against the European Schoolboys Champion at 50KG from 2016, Alessio Genovese. The first round started similar to the last bout between these boxers – Genovese coming charging out of the blocks swinging at Gill. The referee cautioned him for slapping early in the first but he continued doing it. Gill just weathered the storm knowing that he had the power to stop his man if he could land the shot and no slaps or swings were going to get in his way. He did land one telling shot which slowed Genovese but the Italian kept slapping his shots which warranted another caution from the referee. After further slaps, the warning was given and a point deducted. However, the Italian continued to slap and later received another warning and was given a stern instruction about the slapping. In the next round Gill used great footwork to avoid more shots from Genovese and kept turning him which annoyed the Italian and eventually the referee jumped in with a final warning for slapping and disqualified Genovese leaving Gill victorious. An excellent performance again by the young Mayo boxer and he’ll definitely have learned so much from this experience in Italy that he could be a huge hope for Irish boxing in the future.
Gary McKenna was next in action and he faced off again against Riccardo Cimmino. In the first bout between this pair, McKenna was in control for most of the bout but on this occasion, he controlled the bout from start to finish. He used better skills, better choice of punches, better defensive manoeuvres. He was catching the Italian for fun with a lovely long left hook when Cimmino changed to southpaw stance during the rounds and yet, after three rounds, he was adjudged to have lost the contest! The team captain won one and lost one, but he will know himself that he was the better man both nights. The look of disbelief on his face when the referee raised his opponents hand said it all. Sometimes in boxing you just go with the flow. There was no point in getting annoyed or throwing toys out of the pram but instead focusing on the good points and of the percormance itself and this is what Gary McKenna did. As team captain, he led by example.
Mark McCole was our last boxer in action again and he faced Simone Giorgetti who was pumped up from the off. Giorgetti was the Italian flagbearer for the parade and anthems and he kept a constant gaze or stare on McCole. This was the same when they were called to touch gloves and when the bell sounded for round one, it was deja vu. He charged at McCole with the head rubbing off the Irishmans face. It was if he was trying to open the cut from the previous night. McCole stayed clever and boxed him long when possible and nailed him with some cracking straight lefts from the southpaw stance. This seemed to enthuse Giorgetti who kept coming forward to have an in close battle. The referee cautioned both boxers about the heads when in close but after further clashes, Giorgetti opened up a cut on McCole around his left eye. The referee took him to the doctor who waved the bout off. As the clash was accidental, it went to the scorecards but the home boxer got the decision. There were some in attendance who felt the Irish boxer should have been awarded the bout as he was the better boxer but the three Italian judges thought otherwise. McCole required more steri stitches on this eye after the contest and will now head home like a soldier from war.
Overall, this was an excellent trip and a huge learning experience for many of these young boxers. The accommodation and food provided to our team by the Buratta family was exceptional and way beyond anything we could have expected. They went out of their way to cater for our every need. If we requested a lift to the train, beach, mass or the local town, they provided it for us. I cannot speak highly enough of the hospitality shown to our team. I would also have to thank Raffaele who made this trip happen, made the matches and helped make our stay in the Tuscany region worthwhile.
The IATBA squad also visited some of Rome’s historic sites including the Sistine chapel, scene of
Michelangelo’s iconic paintings, and the colosseum.
Pictures and copy courtesy of Paddy Gallagher.