Aidan Walsh guaranteed Ireland at least one more medal at the Olympic Games with an assured performance in the welterweight quarter-finals.
The 24-year-old was composed throughout against Merven Clair of Mauritius, repeatedly catching his opponent on the counter and landing some punishing straight right hands.
Southpaw Clair had occasional joy with his looser style but Walsh led on three of the five judges’ cards from the first round and was able to sit back and pick off his opponent in the second and third.
Three judges gave the fight 30-27 to Walsh, one 29-28 and the last scored it 29-28 to Clair, meaning a 4-1 split-decision win for the Irishman, who will take home bronze at least.
Walsh now meets Britain’s Pat McCormack at 4.03am Sunday (Irish time) for a place in the final and a guaranteed silver.
“It’s incredible,” was the 24-year-old’s reaction to becoming the latest Belfast boxer to win an Olympic medal for Ireland.
“I watched those guys in the gyms all the time. Paddy Barnes, Mick Conlan… seeing them coming back to Belfast on the big buses.
“The amount of training I’ve put in and the amount of sacrifices… my coaches, my club coaches, my family and girlfriend, everybody has given me so much support and I’m just so grateful.
“I just do what the coaches tell me. They come up with a game plan and you just do it, just listen. Boxers say it’s like a computer game, they’re playing a computer game, I’m just the operator in it and doing my best to do what they’re telling me to do.
“I’m happy with my performance but I want to progress on. You want to be the best and I feel like I’m improving all the time.”