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Irvine qualifying for Olympics is last round as virus KOs tournament

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LOOKING UP: Ireland’s Brendan Irvine celebrates his victory in the men’s flyweight 52kg preliminary round bout against Istvan Szaka of Hungary at the European Boxing Olympic Qualifying Event at the Copper Box Arena in London. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

LOOKING UP: Ireland’s Brendan Irvine celebrates his victory in the men’s flyweight 52kg preliminary round bout against Istvan Szaka of Hungary at the European Boxing Olympic Qualifying Event at the Copper Box Arena in London. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

LOOKING UP: Ireland’s Brendan Irvine celebrates his victory in the men’s flyweight 52kg preliminary round bout against Istvan Szaka of Hungary at the European Boxing Olympic Qualifying Event at the Copper Box Arena in London. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Irish captain Brendan Irvine qualified for Tokyo 2020 at the Copperbox Arena in London last night at a tournament later 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.

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

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

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.

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

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High-performance Director of IABA Bernard Dunne. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

High-performance Director of IABA Bernard Dunne. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

High-performance Director of IABA Bernard Dunne. Photo: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Shortly before the 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".

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

The Irish team, which includes 2018 World champion Kellie Harrington who was due to fight this afteroon, 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 were also 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.

Meanwhile, 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 fire-power for Estonia's Pavel Kamanin, earning two 10-8 rounds in a unanimous verdict.

Nevin progressed on a 4-1 split decision over Max Van Der Pas.

Irish Independent