FOLLOWING the recent Olympic Games in Tokyo, Zaur Antia, Ireland's most successful boxing coach, was congratulated and warmly welcomed last week to Leeside.
A native of the town of Poti in Georgie, Antia was officially greeted by Michael O'Brien, President of the Cork Board.
O'Brien was accompanied by Dan O OConnell, the man who originally identified Antia's potential and paved the way to facilitate his arrival in Ireland.
As he entered the Silver Springs Hotel, the broad smile on his face matched the Olympic success he had enjoyed in Tokyo this summer.
Antia is now acclaimed as one of the world's top boxing coaches. Recently, he has been the subject of enquiries from various countries.
Since this nation first participated in the Olympic Games in 1924 in Paris, Ireland has won 35 Olympic medals in all sports. However, boxing has delivered the lion's share with a total of 18 medals.
Zuar Antia has the proud distinction of being credited with coaching boxers who have won nine of those medals.
That achievement has been delivered over his 20 years involved in Irish boxing.
Under Antia's magnificent coaching, those nine medals alone make up 25% of Ireland's tally of 35.
This remarkable success is simply mind-blowing when one considers it represents the contribution of one man who contributed to two of these medals being gold.
Antia was in the corner for both Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington. His roles of honour include three medals in Beijing in 2008, Ken Engan, silver, Paddy Barnes, bronze and Darren Sutherland bronze. London 2012, four medals, Katie Taylor gold, John Joe Nevin silver, Paddy Barnes bronze, Michael Conlan bonze, Tokyo 2020, two medals, Kellie Harrington gold and Aidan Walsh bronze.
As Antia relaxed, he reflected on the recent Tokyo Olympic campaign and referenced the frustration he experienced in attempting their get boxers qualified.
With only eight weeks to go, Ireland had only one entry. However, a magnificent seven eventually made it over the line.
Once again, Ireland did the nation proud and returned with gold and bronze medals.
Ireland finished 7th in the boing medals table while the USA finished in 12th place. Cork boxing followers were disappointed that Christina Desmond failed to qualify.
This was due to a number of opportunities being cancelled due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
Asked if he thought Christina would qualify for the Olympic Games in Paris in three years' time, Antia said. "Christina is a very good boxer with a lot of international experience."
"She won a bronze medal at the European Elites in 2016. She also has a career, and it is difficult to give boxing 100%. The standards are very high at this level, and every boxer must be fully focused.
However, Christina has great potential."
Antia added that he is very happy working with the High-Performance team in Dublin, and he enjoys a very positive working relationship with his coaches and Bernard Dunne, the former World champion who is Director of the High-Performance Unit.
Antia operates as a full-time employee of the IABA, and considering his success rate over the last five years must be seen as the jewel in the crown.
Since 2016 at all competitive levels, Ireland has won a whopping 41 international medals. This includes eleven gold, thirteen silver and seventeen bronze.
These were won in competition at the World Championships, European Championships, the EU Championships, European Games, and the European U/22 Championships.
Following lunch, Antia visited the famed boxing wall in Bishop Lucey Park. He studied the Olympic plaque and commented on the Cork boxers who had represented Ireland at the Olympics since 1924.
Dan O Connell then presented him with a Cork Ex Boxers Golden Jubilee tie. Reflecting on where they stood, Mick O'Brien said he was delighted to be standing where the home of Cork's only World Champion Jack McAuliffe once stood.
O'Brien added that he was fortunate to be in the company of two men who directly and indirectly made a huge contribution to Irelands outstanding Olympic boxing story.
The Cork President concluded by saying that Zaur Antia is a boxing genius, and his achievements to date may never be matched, but O' Briien added that sadly some of the great visionaries in the IABA will never understand let alone fully appreciate his talent.
O Connell, meanwhile, will be back in Bishop Luckey Park shortly on official duty.
On Saturday, October 2nd next, he will unveil a plaque to honour the memory of his great friend Maurice Walsh. Maurice was a true legend on Leeside, and he was equally loved and admired throughout the entire country.
The famed boxing wall will now be further enhanced when bestowed with this perpetual honour which will proudly display the name of Maurice "PiP" Walsh.