RATHKEALE Boxing Club is celebrating a first ever senior title.
Rob Williams, Secretary and coach at the west Limerick club, hailed the performance of Martin Keenan after he claimed the historic title for the club at the National Stadium in Dublin on Friday night.
Keenan beat Dubliner Thomas Carthy, the current Irish U-22 champion, on a 4-1 split decision in the super-heavyweight final at the home of Irish boxing to secure a first ever Elite belt for the Co. Limerick unit who were affiliated to the Irish Athletic Boxing Association in 2002.
“It’s a tremendous boost for the club. This is our first Elite title and we’ll take them when they come,” said Rob Williams who was working Keenan’s corner with his brother Peter at the Stadium.
“Martin won an Irish Intermediate title last November and he’s been called up to the Ireland team for an international. It’s been a great few months for him. He’s having a good run of it,” said Williams.
“We also had Cormac Long at the Elite Championships. He reached the semi-final stage. We have a lot of lads coming through and this is a great boost and we’re thrilled with the win.”
Opponent Carthy, probably shaded the first round of Friday’s showdown, but Keenan, who rocked his opponent backwards with a massive right in frame two, took the final two rounds.
The new champion has been called up to the Irish squad to meet an England and Southern Counties selection in Woking on Friday night.
His Rathkeale BC team-mate, Cian O’Shaughnessy, also a super-heavy, and Tommy Casey of the St Francis BC in Limerick city are also included in the 10-strong Irish panel.
“Everybody can dream, and if you work hard enough and train hard enough, it may come true,” said Keenan.
“Our game plan worked and we just cut him off from his shots. We got him out of his own comfort zone, he had to try and come for it, but the lad just wasn’t able to in the end because I had too much,” said the new champion.
The 23-year-old 91kg+ champion is now in line to be selected for the Irish squad for June’s European Elite Championships in Kharkiv, Ukraine which will act as the sole qualifier for the AIBA World Elite Championships in Hamburg, Germany in August and September.
However, Tipperary’s Dean Gardiner could call for a box-off to decide who wears the Irish super-heavy vest in Kharkiv, where a top-eight finish will be enough to book a ticket for Hamburg.
Gardiner, who is contracted to the British Lionhearts in the World Series of Boxing and who came close to qualifying for Rio 2016, was the defending champion going into the 2017 National Elite Championships but withdrew because of a hand injury.
Keenan beat Patrick Nevin, Damien Sullivan and Carthy en route to gold at the flagship tournament of Irish boxing.