Saturday 3 December 2016

Donnelly gets Russian boost on rocky road to Rio Olympics biog boost

Sean McGoldrick and Bernard O'Neill

Published 30/11/2015 | 02:30

Steven Donnelly faces the most anxious wait of his career to see if he has automatically qualified for the Rio Olympics next summer.

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The Ballymena welterweight looks to have secured the berth following events at the Russian championships in Samara yesterday but the situation won't be clarified for another week.

The selection process in boxing for the 2016 Games is notoriously complicated. But one rule remains unchanged. Each country is allowed only one boxer in each weight division.

Two Russians - Andrey Zamkovoy and Radzhab Butaev - have already qualfied in the 69kg category via the AIBA Professional Boxing Series and the World Boxing Series.

Zamkovoy defeated Butaev in the Russian championships to seemingly copper-fasten his place at the 2016 Games.

Based on current regulations, that appears to open the way for Donnelly to replace Butaev in Rio.

Last spring Donnelly competed in the World Boxing Series and finished fourth in the welterweight rankings.

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.

The top-ranked welter in the WSB series, Mohammad Rabii from Morocco, won gold at the World Championships in Doha and that also earned him a place in the Rio Olympics.

Following much confusion the AIBA, the world governing body, announced that boxers who qualified for the Olympics at the World Championships had to take up that slot.

So if this rule is applied, Rabbii will surrender the Olympic slot he earned in the WSB series to the third-ranked Parviz Baghirov.

If Butaev is ruled out, Donnelly will take the second guaranteed spot available to WSB boxers.

However, he could still face a box-off against London Olympian Adam Nolan if the Wexford welterweight wins the Irish Elite title next month and then qualifies for the Olympics at one of the two scheduled qualifying event for Europeans in 2016.

So far Ireland has three boxers, Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward qualified for Rio.

Meanwhile, Darren O'Neill edged a step closer to his sixth Elite title at the National Stadium by beating Stephen Lawrence in the heavyweight quarter-finals on a unanimous decision.

Meanwhile, Michael Nevin (gold), Stephen McKenna (silver), James McGivern (silver), Willie Donoghue (bronze) and John Joyce (bronze) all won medals at the European Youth Championships in Poland. The haul saw Ireland finish second in the rankings table and third in the medals haul at the 38-nation tournament.

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