Rio 2016: Michael Conlan books last-eight berth to boost Irish boxing morale

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Michael Conlan says he enjoys the 'pressure cooker' atmosphere of the Olympics

Belfast bantamweight Michael Conlan earned a morale boosting win for the Ireland boxing team at the Olympics as he clinched a quarter-finals place.

World champion Conlan, 24, produced a busy performance to earn a unanimous win over Armenia's Aram Avagyan.

Conlan and fellow London 2012 medallist Katie Taylor are the only members of the eight-strong Ireland boxing team still involved in the Games.

Paddy Barnes was among fancied Irish fighters to exit last week.

However, his close friend Conlan clinched a dominant 30-27, 30-27, 29-28 victory over world number 28 Avagyan.

Conlan set the tone for his first contest of the Games as he produced a big early right hand to rock the Armenian, whose main career achievement was winning a European Championship bronze medal three years ago.

Avagyan produced better work in the second half of the first round but Conlan had already done enough to take a 10-9 verdict on all three judges' cards.

Paddy Barnes (left) watches his friend Michael Conlan secure a quarter-finals place
Paddy Barnes (left) suffered a shock exit from the Olympics last Monday

Conlan, who won flyweight bronze in 2012, was himself caught with a big left as he was trapped on the ropes early in the second round but replied with several good shots of his own as he again took the round 10-9 on all cards.

Given Conlan's lead going into the final round, Avagyan was forced to go for broke and while the Armenian was given the round by one judge, the Irishman had done more than enough to progress.

Defending women's lightweight champion Taylor begins her campaign with a quarter-final against Finland's Mira Potkonen on Monday afternoon.

Victory will guarantee the Bray woman at least a bronze medal.

A positive drugs test for Laois middleweight Michael O'Reilly got Ireland's Rio boxing campaign off to the worst possible start and a shock defeat for 2012 bronze medallist Barnes continued a week of woe for the Irish.

Another big medal hope, light-heavyweight Joe Ward, was among the early casualties.

Ballymena welterweight Donnelly's medal hopes were extinguished by a quarter-final defeat by Morocco's world champion Mohammed Rabii on Saturday as Belfast man Brendan Irvine also became the fifth Irish fighter to bow out.

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