Lisa O’Rourke’s Road to Gold…

En route to winning the world title at her first ever elite competition in Istanbul, Castlerea light-middleweight Lisa O’Rourke defeated Mbabi Brigitte of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Moronta Hernandez of the Dominican Republic to earn a place in the quarter-finals.

Reaching the last eight was in itself a remarkable achievement considering Lisa only found out she had made the Irish team just days before her opening bout.

“I went to a training camp in Italy two weeks before (the world championships) not even knowing if I was being selected. I was still in assessments against another top class girl, Christina Desmond. Thankfully I was picked but it wasn’t nice to see her going home because it was so tight,” she said.

Having impressed in the earlier rounds, Lisa faced Armenia’s Ani Hovsepyan in the quarter-finals where a victory would guarantee a bronze medal at the very least.

“The quarter-final was a tough fight. She was experienced but thankfully I came out on top. Before this fight I really wanted a medal but I wasn’t expecting to medal because it was my first elite competition,” she said.

Bronze medal secured, Lisa entered the lion’s den for her semi-final bout against home town fighter Sema Caliskan.

2022 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships, Istanbul, Turkey 18/5/2022
Women’s Light Middleweight Semi-Final
Lisa O’Rourke vs Sema Caliskan
Ireland’s Lisa O’Rourke celebrates winning
Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Aleksandar Djorovic

“Going into the semi-final against the home girl, I was nervous but I had a medal at this stage so it was time to enjoy it as I had already reached my goal,” Lisa said.

“I went out there wanting to win my first fight, and I told Aoife if I won that first fight that was more than enough and I could enjoy it from there. I took it one fight at a time (after that) and it all worked out well!”

In front of a partisan crowd, Lisa produced one of the performances of the tournament to earn a convincing unanimous decision over the Turkish fighter.

She had achieved the impossible and was now just one fight away from a world title as images of her excited post-decision leap accompanied the headlines back home.

Then last Thursday, just moments before Lisa was due in the ring to face Mozambique’s Helena Alcinda Panguane in her final, Dundalk boxer Amy Broadhurst became only the third Irish woman to claim world gold.

“I was watching (Amy Broadhurst’s fight) on the TV and I was still shaking, trying to focus on myself. It was Amy’s fifth world championships and her first time to medal…she deserves it more than anyone,” Lisa recalls.

“I was trying to keep my focus but I was delighted to see her hand being raised. It made me more eager to go out there and have that feeling of my hand being raised too. It definitely gave me the confidence to go out and win.

“She (Panguane) was a very tough girl. She was also a lot older than me and had a lot of experience. But I was just going to leave it all in the ring and took it round by round and minute-by-minute. I won the first round 3-2. It was close and I knew I had to try to keep on top of things. She got the better of the second round and going into the third I knew it was all or nothing.

“Our tactics were to just keep it simple. Get in and out and use my footwork. She was a heavy puncher so getting in and out was important”.

Lisa’s hand was raised in triumph following a 4-1 split decision win, the Tarmon fighter leaping into the history books to join the likes of Katie Taylor, Kellie Harrington and Amy Broadhurst as a world champion.

The celebrations could wait and the champagne was left on ice for the homecoming in Castlerea.

“I was in bed by ten o’clock! Ah no, we had a team meal and just enjoyed it. The phone was hopping but I said I’d just leave it aside and enjoy our last night together as a team. It was great”.