DARREN O’NEILL MADE it two wins from two for Ireland’s boxers on opening day as he moved through to the last 16 of the men’s middleweight division in the ExCeL Arena.
With team-mate John Joe Nevin ensuring that Team Ireland got off to a winning start, O’Neill upheld his part of the bargain with a 15-6 win against Muideen Akanji of Nigeria this afternoon.
The Paulstown southpaw didn’t have it all his own way against a game opponent who is six years his junior. Akanji’s industry in the opening round left O’Neill frustrated at the bell and leading by the narrowest of margins, 4-3.
A mental pep talk between rounds seemed to jolt the Kilkenny man to life though and he dominated the second round to open up a seven-point gap, 12-5, and effectively seal the contest.
Despite Akanji’s efforts in the final three minutes, O’Neill stretched further ahead to win by nine on the judges’ cards.
“Fights are never comfortable but I never felt that it was out of my control,” the 26-year-old told Will Downing afterwards. “I’m delighted to come to the Olympic Games and get a win under my belt.”
My footwork was all over the place in the first round. The boys said that to me in the corner — what’s going on with your feet, get your feet right.
I was happy enough. He didn’t hit overly hard or anything. I was happy I was in control and I thought maybe in the second round I was unfortunate not to put him away. That’s boxing.”
A win’s a win. We’ll take and we’ll move on to the next day and be happy.
Up next is Stefan Hartel of Germany, who beat Enrique Collazo Pelaiz of Puerto Rico 18-10 to set up a showdown on Tuesday afternoon.
One of O’Neill’s potential quarter-final opponents, Great Britain’s Anthony Ogogo, also won his opening bout. Ogogo beat Junior Castillo Martinez of the Dominican Republic 13-6.