Sunday 25 February 2018

The statistic that highlights how the Irish boxing team has grown into a formidable world force

Katie Taylor
Katie Taylor

Sean McGoldrick

ONLY ten countries will have more boxers than Ireland at the Rio Olympics next month, with the Irish team sending the same amount of fighters as the United States.

The long drawn out qualification process is finally over and the 250 male boxers and 36 females have earned their place in the 2016 Olympic tournament.

No country managed to fill their maximum quote of 13 boxers, though Great Britain and Kazakhstan each got 12 boxers through.

Cuba will have fighters in the all ten male weight divisions but none in the three female categories.

But the centre of power in Olympic boxing has now moved to the Central Asian region.

Between them Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan (11) and Uzbekistan (11) will have 34 boxers in action.

China will have 11 boxers in action as will France and Russia while Morocco will have ten.

Host Brazil have nine but their boxers were exempt from the qualification process while Algeria, Venezuela and the United States will have eight – the same number of Ireland.

It is a measure of the task facing former Irish High Performance chief Billy Walsh in his new role as director of the High Performance programme in the US that they will have four less boxers in action than at the London Olympics.

In contrast, this is the largest ever team to have qualified from Ireland – we had six boxers in action in London – and it is the biggest Irish boxing squad to travel to an Olympics since Rome in 1960.

The Irish boxers won four medals, one gold (Katie Taylor), one silver (John Joe Nevin) and two bronze (Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan) in London.

Taylor, Barnes – who also won bronze in Beijing in 2008 – and Conlan will be in action in Rio and the success of the team will be judged by their medal count in Brazil.

The other members of the team are Brendan Irvine, David Oliver Joyce, Steven Donnelly, Michael O’Reilly and Joe Ward.

The latter could face the most experienced professional boxer to have qualified for the Games under the new rules forced through by AIBA President Dr Wu.

Hassam N’Dam N’Jikam from Cameroon beat Andy Lee in a countback in the middleweight division at the Athens Games in 2004. Twelve years later he is back in the light heavyweight division having qualified at the final tournament in Venezuela.

In his professional career he won 33 of his 35 fights – 19 by knockout and was the WBO interim World middleweight champion in 2012.

Boxers from 70 countries have qualified for Games.

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