By Kenny Egan | Olympic silver medalist and boxing pundit
It’s already been a fantastic Olympics for the Irish boxing team. It’s one of the best boxing teams that’s ever travelled. At the start, all they were asked to do was perform to the best of their abilities and that’s exactly what they’ve done. Each and every one of them has been outstanding all week and it’s been a pleasure to watch them and to know them. It’s a super team.
I’ve seen a good bit of Luke Campbell from the amateur boxing circuit. I saw him when he faced John Joe in the semi-final of the World Championships in Baku and it was a very cautious fight from both fighter. Campbell came out on top by a point and went on to beat the Cuban, Alvarez, by a point. But John Joe beat Alvarez convincingly yesterday, so it’s clearly going to be a very tricky fight.
It could see this bout being cagey and low-scoring. John Joe has improved more than Luke and that might be enough to swing it in his favour. Seeing Luke last night, he looked very tired and that gave rise to some sloppy mistakes in his semi-final. This is John Joe’s time. After beating Alvarez so resoundingly, his confidence is going to be sky-high. But that’s history and put to bed. He needs to focus on today and the job at hand. John Joe is world class. At the last two World Championships, he’s come home with two bronze medals, so he’s ranked up there with the best of them.
It’ll be a tricky fight. Campbell is tall, awkward and a bit of a nightmare to fight. Nevin has the tools to beat him, but if the Englishman takes a lead early on, we’ll see John Joe on the back foot. In fairness, that’s how it’s been for most of the week and John Joe has been boxing brilliantly. He said after each fight that his confidence was growing and he has beaten this guy before, in the EU Championships in 2009, so he’s in a strong position. He deserves to be favourite. He’s had the harder route to the final and based on their two semi-finals, you’d say he’s the better boxer.
I’d hate to see John Joe get robbed at this stage. It’s on home some for Campbell and I just hope it’s fair scoring. I’m not accusing the judges of anything, but in an Olympic final, with the crowd going wild for their man, it’s sometimes tricky for the judges to score fairly. They’ll need to be focused and block out what’s going to be an electric atmosphere. The Irish supporter has been brilliant all week and it’s felt like a home bout for the Irish boxers every time. It’s been a great help to the team.
John Joe Nevin can and will win this fight. His awareness, his timing, his reflexes all need to be razor sharp, but this is all stuff he’s been working hard on. He needs to be switched on from the moment that bell rings and be ready for anything. This guy is a quick, awkward, southpaw counter-puncher and Nevin needs to be alert throughout. If he stay alert, it’ll win him this fight.