Irvine books his spot as plug is pulled on Olympic qualifiers

Brendan Irvine of Ireland following victory in the Men's Flyweight 52KG Preliminary round bout against Istvan Szaka of Hungary on Day Three of the Road to Tokyo European Boxing Olympic Qualifying Event at Copper Box Arena in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, England. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Bernard O'Neill

Irish captain Brendan Irvine qualified for Tokyo 2020 at the Copperbox Arena in London last night at a tournament that was abandoned because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Boxing Task Force (BTF) announced yesterday that the European qualifiers for the 32nd Olympiad were postponed as of the final session yesterday evening after three days into the eleven-day competition in the English capital.

Irvine needed to finish in the top eight and the Belfast flyweight and Rio 2016 Olympian did that last night after beating Hungary's Istavan Szaka with a unanimous decision to reach the quarter-finals.

But Antrim feather Kurt Walker, the current European champion, dropped a unanimous verdict to Germany's Hamsat Shadolov, who had former Irish coach Eddie Bolger in his corner, with an Olympic 57kg place on the line.

Irvine, who represented Ireland at Rio 2016, punished durable Budapest puncher Szaka in a dominant performance to become a two-time Irish Olympian.

Sixteen Olympic berths were claimed in the flyweight and featherweight limits last night.

Shortly before yesterday's second session, the BTF said that the qualifiers, which were scheduled to run until March 24, were postponed "amid increasing global travel restrictions and quarantine measures".


The Olympic places won will stand, and the competition will restart at the point it finished in London when the tournament is rescheduled, probably in May.

The Irish team, which includes 2018 World champion Kellie Harrington, who was due to fight tomorrow, are expected to come home today. "We're going to return as soon as possible," said Bernard Dunne, Irish Athletic Boxing Association High-Performance Director.

The IOC Boxing Task Force (BTF) is running the qualifiers for Tokyo 2020 as the International Boxing Association is banned from any involvement with the qualifiers or the Games because of governance issues.

The Americas qualifiers for Tokyo scheduled for Buenos Aires later this month are cancelled.

The Americas could be completed in May along with the Europeans. The final world qualifier, which was slated for Paris in May, looks likely to be pushed forward to June.

As things stand, the African and Asia/Oceania qualifiers are done and dusted - and a portion of the Europeans.

For the record, Laois middleweight Michael Nevin and Antrim welter Aidan Walsh advanced to the last 16 yesterday, but Carly McNaul lost.

Walsh had way too much ring craft and firepower for Estonia's Pavel Kamanin; the Commonwealth finalist earning two 10-8 rounds en route to a unanimous verdict.

Nevin progressed on a 4-1 split decision over Max Van Der Pas, with the Dutch fighter picking up a facial cut after a clash of heads in the second round. Ireland's Emmet Brennan, George Bates and Kiril Afansev also posted wins in London, but Christina Desmond, Walker and McNaul lost.