Just as was the case 13 months ago in the same competition, Aoife O’Rourke’s bid for glory at the Strandja International tournament in Bulgaria ended when she was defeated by American boxer Naomi Graham at the semi-final stage.
Despite putting in arguably her best performance of the tournament so far, the Castlerea middleweight was unable to follow up on her earlier victories against Bulgarian and Turkish opposition and struggled to deal with the precision and power of the 31-year-old US army fighter.
Perfectly placed left-handed jabs from the North Carolina native put O’Rourke on the back foot early, though she responded well with some good combination moves, finding the target with several blows to the midriff of Graham.
A clinical uppercut from Graham in the closing minute of the first round was enough to ensure that four of the five judges scored the round in her favour, and she got the verdict on all five scorecards in round two, in part because of a sharp left hand that drew blood from O’Rourke.
Knowing that she was behind and chasing a knockdown, O’Rourke did land some powerful blows in the third round but Graham was able to hold out and pick off some good strikes on the counter, again winning the round on the card of all five judges.
O’Rourke will now return home from Strandja with a bronze medal for her efforts, one of just two medals won by the nine-strong Irish team. Flyweight Brendan Irvine, who was forced to pull out of his semi-final due to injury, was the other medal winner on the team.