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Kellie Harrington set to begin bid for Olympic qualification as London tournament survives coronavirus shutdown


Kellie Harrington

Kellie Harrington

Kellie Harrington

Former World lightweight champion Kellie Harrington will begin her bid for a place at the Tokyo Olympics on St Patrick’s Day at the qualifying tournament in the Copperbox Arena in London.

Despite the growing threat of the coronavirus pandemic the organisers insisted on pressing ahead with the event acting on the advice of the British health authorities.

Boxing begins tomorrow but Harrington, the 2018 World champion, received a bye into the last sixteen. She will face the winner of a first round bout between a Romanian and a Polish boxer.

The 60kg women's category is arguably the most competitive of the 13 weight divisions.

But Harrington, who is the number 2 seed, is in the opposite half of the draw to three of the big guns, European champion and number one seed Mika Potkonen from Finland, long-time WBC World lightweight professional champion Delfine Persoon – who surrendered her crown to Katie Taylor last year – and 19-year old British boxer Caroline Dubois, who is the current BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year.

However, another former professional boxer Maiva Hamadouche from France is likely to prove Harrington's biggest threat. They are likely to meet in the quarter-final with the winner guaranteed one of the six Olympics slots on offer. The losing quarter-finalists will box off for the two remaining places.

Thirty-one year old Hamadouche won 21 of her 22 professional fights – seventeen inside the distance – and her only loss came against Delfine Persoon in 2015 in a World title fight.

Since then the French women has beaten both Anahi Esther Sanchez and Viviane Obenauf, two former opponents of Kate Taylor's. The probable show-down between Harrington and Hamadouche will take place on March 19th.

The only other seeded female Irish fighter Michaela Walsh meets the winner of a first round contest between the French and a Danish fighter on March 17th as well. Walsh is the number two seed in the featherweight category.

European featherweight champion Kurt Walker and Rio Olympian Brendan Irvine (flyweight) are both one win away from securing an Olympic spot. Their respective weight categories have eight places available and both received first round byes.

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Walker, the number two seed in the tournament, meets the winner of a first round tie between a German and a Belarus fighter, on Monday. Irvine will be in action on the same day against Istvan Szaka from Hungary.

Lightweight George Bates, light heavyweight Emmet Brennan and heavyweight Afanasev Kirill will be the first Irish boxers in action in the tournament. All three are in the ring on Sunday. The latter has to reach the semi-final to secure Olympic qualification. He meets Georgian fighter Begadze Nikoloz in the first round. There are six places available in Brennan's light heavyweight category and his first round bout is against Tomic Radenko from Bosnia and Herzegovia.

Welterweight Aidan Walsh, a brother of Michaela Walsh's, takes on Pavel Kamanin from Estonia in a first round bout on Wednesday while super heavyweight Dean Gardiner meets Petar Belberov from Bulgaria in a last 16 contest. There are 34 boxers entered in the middleweight category and Michael Nevin begins his campaign on Monday against Max Van Der Pas from Holland.

Cork welterweight Christina Desmond possibly drew the strong straw. Her first round bout on Tuesday is against the number three seed Angela Carini from Italy.

Reigning European middleweight champion Aoife O'Rourke, who is not seeded for this event, takes on Viktoruia Kebikava from Belarus in a first round bout on Tuesday while flyweight Carly McNaul faces Britain's Charley Sian Davison on Monday.

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