Anxious wait for Irish boxer Steven Donnelly for automatic Olympic qualification
Ballymena boxer Steven Donnelly faces the most anxious wait of his career to see if he has automatically qualified for the Rio Olympics next summer.
At face value the welterweight looks to have secured the berth following events at the Russian boxing championships in Samara today but the situation won’t be clarified officially for another week at least.
The selection process in boxing for the 2016 Games is notoriously complicated. But one rule remains unchanged. Each country is only allowed ONE boxer in each weight division.
Russia had qualified two boxers, Andrey Zamkovoy and Radzhab Butaev in the 69kg category. However, only one can compete in Rio and at the Russian championships the favourite Zamkovoy defeated Butaev to seemingly copper fasten his place at the 2016 Games.
This was the result that Donnelly was hoping for. Based on current regulations it appears to open the way for him to automatically replace Butaev in Rio. Last spring Donnelly competed in the World Boxing Series and finished fourth in the welterweight rankings in the series.
The top two finishers automatically qualified for Rio. Donnelly was particularly unlucky as a visa mix-up forced him to concede a walk over in one of his scheduled contest.
He actually finished level on points with the third placed Parviz Baghirov from Azerbaijan but the latter was awarded third place due to his super round difference.
The top ranked boxer in the WSB series in the welterweight category Mohammad Rabii from Morocco also won the gold medal at the World championships in Doha which also earned him a place at the Rio Olympics.
Following much confusion the AIBA, the world governing body, announced that boxers who qualified for the Rio Olympics at the World championships had to take up that slot. So if this rule is applied then Rabbii will surrender the Olympic slot he earned in the WSB series to the third ranked boxer Parviz Baghirov from Azerbaijan.
Andrey Zamkovoy who beat Butaev today, qualified for the Olympics in the new AIBA Profession Boxing series – he finished second overall. So with Butaev now out of the equation as regards a place in Rio, it leaves the door open for Donnelly to take the second guaranteed spot available to WSB boxers.
There could be further twists in this saga yet – not least the fact that even if Donnelly secures the Olympic spot he could face a box-off in Ireland against London Olympian Adam Nolan.
The Wexford welterweight has fought both Russians. Zamkovoy beat Nolan on his way to winning a bronze medal at the London Olympics while the Irishman scored a shock win over Butaev at the European Championships this summer.
Firstly, however, Adam has to win the Irish Elite title next month and then qualify for the Olympics at one of the two scheduled qualifying event for European boxers in 2016 – the first takes place in Instanbul in April.
So far Ireland has three boxers, Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward qualified for Rio 2016.