OLYMPIC BOXING: Belfast’s Brendan Irvine loses opening fight in Rio

Brendan Irvine (Blue) vs Shakhobidin Zoirov (Red)
Brendan Irvine (Blue) vs Shakhobidin Zoirov (Red)

Ireland’s Brendan Irvine was on the wrong end of a dominant display from Uzbekistan’s Shakhobidin Zoirov as he lost his opening fight in Rio.

The Belfast flyweight was thoroughly outclassed in his Olympic debut, with each of the three judges scoring every round in favour of the world No.4 in a 30-27, 30-26, 30-27 decision.

Zoirov seized the initiative and caught Irvine with an early left and quickly began showing off his full repertoire of shots. Irvine was moving well but looked tentative as he expended a lot of early energy attempting to evade Zoirov’s blows.

The 20-year-old connected with a left jab but was caught by a stiff counter for his troubles as Zoirov smoothly varied his attacks to the head and body, catching Irvine with a big right hand before landing another clean shot on the bell.

The size of the task was now apparent to Irvine, with one judge scoring the opening round 10-8 against him, but he showed his willingness to make it a contest by attempting to take the initiative at the start of the second.

The Uzbek continued to land the better punches throughout the round, however, leaving a drip of blood coming from Irvine’s nose as Uzbek was by now picking his shots.

Irvine was beginning to tire as his guard was becoming increasingly easy to breach, although ‘Wee Rooster’ did land a clean blow of his own after ducking under a rare wild swing from Zoirov.

A slightly improved finish to the round had little impact on the judges and understandably so, leaving Irvine needing a stoppage in the final three minutes to advance to the last 16.

Knowing the points were in the bag, Zoirov continued to land on the gamely advancing Irvine, succeeding with combinations of jabs and straight shots from either hand.

Zoirov ended the fight on the deck but it was only the result of a slip, the only misstep from a really classy opponent.