Category: Archive

Omagh fighters measure success in experience gained

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Jay Mwamba

Seventeen-year-old Damien Taggart pulled out the only victory for the Omagh Boys and Girls Club in last Thursday’s international amateur boxing tournament against a New York metropolitan select side at the Elk Club in Queens.

Taggart outboxed Juan Sanchez of the Bronx in a three-round light welterweight contest, on a night when the results from the six bouts were less paramount for the young visitors from Northern Ireland than the experience garnered.

"Class grab," Taggart quipped, using a slang term for "good" to describe his first international victory. "It was tough. One of the toughest fights I’ve had."

Taggart, who improved to 7-2, credited Connor Higgins, a Woodside pro who gave him tips on how to nullify the metro fighter’s body attack, and his Omagh coaches for the win.

"Connor told me to keep my elbows down, and (coach) David Simmons gave me a big slap after the first round to wake me up," the youngster said.

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The Omagh pugs were denied a second victory when Shane O’Hagan, who’s 19, dropped a close decision to Brooklyn light heavyweight Yasin Abdur Rashid in a thriller that had the sizable crowd on its feet for the entire three rounds.

"The decision was fair," O’Hagan conceded after the slugfest.

Also coming up short were Pat McDonagh, 19, who lost to Hector Lopez at lightweight; welterweight Damien O’Hagan, 16, who fell to 15-11 after a third-round stoppage by Juan Castillo, and 17 year-old light welterweight Barry O’Hanlon, who was outpointed by Brooklyn prospect Leon Hinds.

There was also a first-time defeat for 12-year-old Paul Barbour, whose two-fight winning streak was ended by Christian Martinez, an 11-year-old sixth grader from the Bronx.

Barbour offered a laconic "good" when asked how he felt after his first taste of international boxing.

Former two-time world heavyweight champion Tim Witherspoon presented trophies to all the fighters on the card, which also featured two exhibition bouts between Omagh fighters after their metro opponents failed to show up. ESPN soccer analyst Tommy Smyth was the emcee.

"Maybe the results didn’t go our way, but that’s the way boxing goes. It was a brilliant event," said Omagh assistant coach Gary McGillion. "The standard of boxing here is high and we hope we’ll learn from this experience."

McGillion also hoped that the Omagh vs. New York show, arranged by the New York-based Omagh Relief Fund, in conjunction with the Irish Ropes Boxing Club of Queens, would become an annual event. "The fighters loved it," he added.

Sean Rice, chairman of the Fund, which was set up last year to raise money for victims and families of last year’s Omagh bomb blast, was pleased with the success of the event.

"Great atmosphere," Rice remarked. "I’m happy for the support we got and the outcome."

One of the goals was to give the fighters a break and a taste of life beyond Northern Ireland.

The Omagh boxers, who ranged in age from 12 to 21, were scheduled to visit tourist spots in New York City and Washington, D.C., including the White House before returning home.

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