Friday 30 September 2016

Bar raised in race for Olympic places

Sean McGoldrick in Doha

Published 10/10/2015 | 11:52

Sean McComb exchanges punches with Albert Selimov, Azerbaijan, during their Men's Lightweight 60kg last 16 bout. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Sean McComb exchanges punches with Albert Selimov, Azerbaijan, during their Men's Lightweight 60kg last 16 bout. Picture credit: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE

Four years ago the majority of the eighty boxers who reached the quarter finals in the ten weight divisions at the World Championship in Baku were virtually assured of their places at the London Olympic Games the following year.

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Michael Conlan, John Joe Nevin and Darren O'Neill all qualified for London by reaching the last eight in Baku. Much has changed in the world of amateur boxing in the last four years. Reaching the last eight at the World championship will not guarantee the boxers their ticket to the Rio Olympics.

London Olympic bronze medallist Michael Conlan has already qualified for Rio via the World Boxing Series but due to the proliferation of competitions the World championships are no longer the gateway to Olympic qualification.

Michael O'Reilly is assured of a box-off for Olympic qualification if he wins today. In his middleweight division the two finalists in Doha will qualify for the 2016 Olympics while there will be a box-off between the two bronze medallists.

But the bar is set higher for European light heavyweight champion Joe Ward who has to reach the final in order to secure qualification for Rio at these championships. However, Belfast teenager Brendan Irvine faces arguably the worst dilemma of them all.

He has to win both today's quarter final and tomorrow's semi-final to order to secure qualification. But that's only half the story. Ireland's double Olympic bronze medallist Paddy Barnes has already won an Olympic place in Irvine's light flyweight category through the World Boxing series.

As countries can only send one boxer in each weight division to Rio both Barnes and Irvine cannot go in the same weight division so presumably a box-off between the two Belfast boxers will be required.

Ireland continues to punch above its weight in world boxing judging by the table below. Only Cuba, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Russia have more boxers in the quarter finals than Ireland who are in joint sixth place alongside Great Britain.

No boxer from the United States reached the last eight while next year's Olympic hosts Brazil have one qualifier but in Rio they will be allowed a boxer in each weight division.

Ireland has targeted two medals at these championships. But for sheer bad luck they would have had more than four boxers in the quarter finals. The three defeated boxers, Dean Walsh, Sean McComb and Adam Nolan all suffered split decision losses but the latter in particular unfortunate not to get the decision in his first round clash against European champions Eimantas Stanionis from Lithuania.

But now the focus is on Ireland's four survivors. Irvine, Conlan and O'Reilly will be boxing in the afternoon session today with Ward in action in the evening.

Country by Country Guide to the Quarter final Line-up:

9: Cuba; 7: Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan; 6: Kazakhstan; 5: Russia; 4: IRELAND, Great Britain, 3:Ukraine; 2: Philippines; Thailand, India, Belarus, Croatia, France, Netherlands, Mongolia ; 1: Poland, Armenia, Egypt, Ecuador, Argentina, Italy, Puerto Rico, China, Columbia, Morocco, Costa Rico, Lithuania, Germany, Jordan. Algeria, Qatar, Algeria, Brazil, Turkey

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