Huge Cork boxing influence behind Olympic coach Zaur Anita's role with the Irish elite boxers

It was Cork man Dan O'Connell who unearthed the stone which became a diamond.
Huge Cork boxing influence behind Olympic coach Zaur Anita's role with the Irish elite boxers

Irish boxing Olympic coach Zaur Antia is pictured with Aine McLoughlin and Louise Forde.

THIS year's Tokyo Olympics will live long in the memory for many reasons.

However, Cork's contribution to winning two Olympic gold medals will be forever cherished by followers of the sport on Leeside.

Two men born and reared on the northside of the river Lee, the heartland of Cork boxing, played significant roles in the destination of the two gold medals.

Last week on both sides of the Irish sea, Dan O'Connell and Frank O'Sullivan were at the centre of a media frenzy as journalists and radio broadcasters chased the detailed magic of their contribution to the Olympic success enjoyed by Kellie Harrington and Galal Yafai.

On the morning of Kellie Harrington's Olympic final an article appeared on a Sunday newspaper headlined Zaur Antia the Man Behind the Medals.

This was a brief history of Zaur's arrival in Ireland. The article outlined his success to date and the importance of the roles he played in bringing nine Olympic medals to Ireland.

This country has participated in the Olympic Games since 1924. However, the first Olympic boxing medal was not won until 1952.

That year John McNally from Belfast won silver and became the trailblazer for the sport.

Today as a country Ireland has now won 35 Olympic medals in all sports. Irish boxers have won 18 of that total or just over 50% of the haul.

Zaur Antia has been arguably the brains behind the nine medals since his arrival.

"The IABA who interviewed Zaur for the job can rejoice all they want, said Mick O'Brien, President of the Cork Board. 

"But it was Dan O'Connell who unearthed the stone which became a diamond."

"It was he who saw the raw potential of the Georgian, and it was Dan O'Connell who plucked him from the obscurity of his country and introduced him to the IABA."

In a superb article to be published at the end of the year, in a Cork Ex-Boxers Golden Jubilee publication, O'Connell will reveal the real story behind Zaur's arrival in the Emerald Isle.

The headline reads Road to Gold and Glory and in the article, O'Connell identifies the character and qualities of a man he refers to as an exceptional coach and a boxing genius.

O'Connell claimed that Zuar is regarded by his fellow international coaches as one of the top technical/tactical trainers in the world.

O'Connell knows the Georgian extremely well. Both men talk weekly and meet up a few times a year.

In the article, O'Connell says: "Zaur Antia has no interest in boxing politics, nor does he seek publicity or praise for himself. He is the quite man of Irish boxing who lets his success do the talking".

O'Connell a former world referee and ambassador for boxing, outlines many of Zaur approaches to the sport. 

Through O'Connell's intervention, Zaur he has come to Cork on many occasions in recent years.

He has coached at a number of sessions at the Cork boxing academies.

He has also conducted several boxing seminars at the Muskerry BC in Ballincollig.

O'Connell's story reveals Antia love of the Irish people. Prior to his interview for the IABA job, O'Connell arranged for him to come to Cork for ten days to learn a little of the English language as at that point, he had about ten words.

During the interview for the job in Dublin, Zuar proclaimed in his best English. "Where I am victory follows."

He immediately got the job as an assistant coach at the IABA High-Performance Unit.

Meanwhile, two months ago, Frank O'Sullivan was selected as this year's Cork Boxing Personality of the Year.

In a subsequent article in the Echo's Boxing Page, Frank's illustrious boxing history was featured and his selection was warmly welcomed by boxing supporters in Cork.

Frank was born and reared at the bottom of Shandon street and boxed with the Sunnyside BC.

He later emigrated to Birmingham for work and over sixty years ago established the very successful Birmingham ABC.

O'Sullivan was honoured by Queen Elizabeth in 2012 for his work in boxing. 

He's enjoyed an outstanding reputation with many of Britain's great Olympic boxers.

The well-respected Robert McCracken was one of his proteges. 

O'Sullivan has been a top Team GB coach for many years.

Last week following his latest gold medal success, Frank was inundated all week by Press, Radio and TV who referred to him as the Godfather of British boxing.

This was to acknowledge Frank's influence when another member of his club, 26 year-old Galal Yafai won the flyweight title in Tokyo.

The latest Olympic success achieved by Frank has this year's Cork Boxing Personality of the Year now widely acclaimed in Britain and Ireland.

This has been an outstanding week for two Cork Northsiders, and Leeside salutes their contribution to Olympic success.

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