Belfast boxer Carly McNaul got a golden tan four years ago but only left Australia with a silver medal and is ready to go one better after hitting her straps at the Commonwealth Games.
McNaul was good to her word after saying she would improve upon what she described as a terrible performance following a split-decision win in her last fight, clinching a unanimous points victory over Sri Lanka’s Keshani Hansika to progress to the women’s light flyweight semi-finals.
The 33-year-old won 52kg silver at Gold Coast 2018 and has secured Team Northern Ireland at least a bronze after making the step down from flyweight - but warned she is getting better with every contest.
McNaul said: “I’m just over the moon to be able to get a better performance than the last one. The first one was very scrappy and at a fast pace.
“I told everyone I was terrible, and I would be able to come out and put on a better performance in the next fight which I did and the next one I’ll be better again.
“I felt I was in total control, and I thought she was going to come forward more, but the tactics worked well, and I was able to relax.
“I am here for the gold, and you all know that. As performances go on, I’ll get better and better.
“I was disappointed in my first performance because I couldn’t do anything I’d been working on. I couldn’t show stuff after saying I’ve got a lot to give.
“This time I was happy to show what I can do. That is to be scrappy, come forward and fight with a lot of heart and I’ve got skills as well.”
This summer, Team Northern Ireland, supported by funding raised by National Lottery players, will compromise of over 100 athletes, all vying for medal success.
McNaul has endured a torrid time with injury since her last podium appearance, suffering a broken femur, torn hand tendons and having scars on her eye operated on.
Boxing is a brutal sport, but she credits her undying love for fighting and her 12-year-old son Jaden for pulling her through the tough times.
McNaul added: “My love for boxing and my love for my son [got me back]. I’ll never give up; I have a dream and I’ll keep going until I can’t go anymore.
“I’ve got great resilience and I love the fight.”
McNaul is relishing the atmosphere at Birmingham’s NEC and is thankful to have had a couple of hit outs which she thinks could play to her advantage against her next opponent, Teddy Nakimuli of Uganda, who progressed via walkover.
Nakimuli was due to fight Sierra Leone’s Sara Haghighat-Joo, who has previously tried to represent Ireland having settled in the country and married a man from Galway, but she failed to make weight.
Haghighat-Joo is Ireland’s reigning bantamweight champion and was always likely to struggle to make it down from 54kg to 50kg, but she let rip at organisers on Instagram after claiming to have missed the mark by just 0.1kg.
McNaul explained: “She might be coming in fresher, but she hasn’t experienced it. I’ve got two fights under my belt now so bring it on, I can’t wait.”
There was disappointment for McNaul’s young teammate Nicole Clyde as her corner threw in the towel after being battered for two rounds by classy Indian Nitu Ghangas.
The 19-year-old showed plenty of heart but was outclassed on the day and struggled to hold back the tears after having her Games ended at the quarter-final stage of the women’s 45-48kg.
The Antrim southpaw can take solace from making it to the last eight at the Games, having told her teachers five years ago she would make it to the Commonwealth stage.
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