Finegan takes silver at World Games in Japan

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Billy Finegan came just one point shy of taking home a gold medal from the sixth annual karate World Games, held Aug. 18 and 19 in Akita, Japan. The Little Neck native settled for the silver medal in the Karate/Sparring -80kg men’s division, losing to Salvatore Loria of Italy in the finals, 6-5.

Finegan dominated his first two matches, against Nguyen Fernando Rodriguez of Venezuela and Ryosuke Shimizu of Japan, to reach the championship round, but came up just short of first place against a more seasoned opponent.

“It was close the whole way through,” Finegan said of his match in the finals. “He was up four points with 30 seconds left. I had to catch up really fast. I got a kick to the head, but I couldn’t finish him off.”

Finegan’s round kick accounted for three points, but it was not enough. Loria, who cruised to the finals with victories over Austria’s Marco Mazzanti and Paul Anthony Richards of Great Britain, held on for the win.

Though disappointed with his loss in the finals, Finegan was still pleased with his performance in Japan.

“This is probably my biggest win,” he said. “I still wish I would’ve got the gold though.”

Finegan’s sensei and United States team coach Tokey Hill said that his 20-year-old rising star showed continued improvement, but was victimized by his overall lack of international competition against Loria in the finals. According to Hill, Loria forced Finegan out of bounds three times, costing the Queens native three crucial points.

“It’s a really positive showing, but it’s a learning process also,” said Hill, who once won gold at the World Union of Karate-Do Organization’s world championships. “This guy had a lot more experience than Billy and he took advantage of it.

“The positive thing is that he’s learning a lot,” Hill added. “He’s fighting in a class above his division and he’s gaining a lot of international experience fighting a lot of seasoned fighters.”

Finegan, though competing in the adult division, is still technically eligible to compete in the Cadet Division, for fighters ages 18 through 20. Finegan will represent the United States as a cadet when he competes in two more international competitions in the following months — the World Karate Federation World Junior and Cadet Championships in Athens, Greece, Oct. 12 through 14 and at the Pan American Junior and Cadet Championships in Port of Spain, Trinidad in November.

In Japan, however, Finegan was fighting against some of the top martial artists in the world, dominating two of them en route to his meeting with Loria.

Against Rodriguez, a fighter he had battled on even terms with, but defeated at the Pan American Games in Curacao, Finegan scored a 3-0 shutout.

“He was a strong fighter,” Finegan said. “We had a really close match [in Curacao], but I beat him pretty bad this time.”

Finegan’s next bout was against the host country’s representative Shimizu, who also beat Rodriguez to reach the semifinals. Finegan, admittedly, was a little apprehensive before taking on Shimizu, a fighter he had never faced before.

“I was a little nervous,” Finegan said. “Japan has strong fighters, they’re kamikaze type fighters. I saw him fight the guy from Venezuela and he whipped his butt. He looked really strong.”

Finegan, however, was up to the task.

“I got in there and was moving really good on him,” he said. “He couldn’t really touch me. I was beating him by three points when he, well, he didn’t really sucker punch me, but you could tell he did it on purpose.”

Shimizu scored with a hard fist to Finegan’s right eye late in the fight and was penalized two points for the illegal blow, but it had done its damage, opening up a deep laceration on Finegan’s right eyelid.

“It was gushing,” Finegan said. “They had to butterfly it up. There was blood in my eye.”

Finegan managed to finish the bout and score an 8-0 win over his opponent.

“I was really proud,” Hill said. “The cut was in a bad place. He showed a lot of poise and a lot of heart.”

The cut did not stop Finegan from vying for the gold against Loria, but did prevent him from competing in two other events while in Japan, the annual Konishi Cup and an informal inter-dojo competition.

Reach Sports Editor Anthony Bosco by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 130.

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