With just 200 days to go, the race to the Rio Olympics is hotting up and Irish boxers at nine weights are preparing for four qualifiers that will hopefully see them join Paddy Barnes, Mick Conlan, Steven Donnelly, and Joe Ward on the plane to Brazil.
With the Irish team deep in training ahead of their assault on qualification, irish-boxing.com takes a look at what is needed to secure entry to the 31st Olympiad.
Note: For this piece, we are working under the assumption that the IABA will be sending the current Elite National Champions to the qualifiers. However, with two, and even three, qualifiers available across the weights, the powers-that-be may decide to send different boxers to different tournaments.
Men’s Light Flyweight (49kg)
Paddy Barnes has already qualified for the Games via last year’s World Series of Boxing.
Men’s Flyweight (52kg)
St Paul’s ABC boxer Brendan Irvine is the man who is targeting a place in Brazil. Fighting in a new, higher weight class, the 19 year old will seek qualification through the European qualifier in Istanbul, Turkey, between April 20th and May 1st. This tournament will be missing Europe’s Top 2 boxers [Aloyan of Russia and Mamishzada of Azerbaijan] as they have already secured qualification. In Istanbul, Irvine will have to come in the top three to be assured of a spot in Rio – and the Belfast man is ranked #3 among the unqualified boxers in Europe.
If Irvine is unsuccessful in Turkey he will go to the final, Worldwide, qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan, between June 7th and 19th. This tournament will be missing the already-qualified fighters from Russia, Azerbaijan, Cuba, Mexico, Morocco, and Puerto Rico, as well as a further 15 nations who will have qualified through Continental qualifiers and the APB/WSB event. If this tournament is needed for Irvine, he would have to place in the Top 5 to gain entry to the Olympics.
Men’s Bantamweight (56kg)
Mick Conlan has already qualified for the Games via last year’s World Championships.
Men’s Lightweight (60kg)
David Oliver Joyce is the reigning Elite champion. but the Athy boxer is also contracted to AIBA Professional Boxing. The APB have a crossover qualification event* with the WSB (3 slots) in Sofia, Bulgaria, between May 13th and 22nd, however Joyce is also eligible to enter the traditional qualifiers in Turkey (3 slots) and Azerbaijan (5 slots).
With regards to Turkey, both Azerbaijan and Russia will be missing, while the APB/WSB event will also be missing Cuba, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, the United States as well as the 12 Continental qualifiers. Finally, if required, the Baku qualifier will be missing the last year’s 7 qualifiers alongside the 15 boxers who will book their places in the Continental and APB/WSB repechages.
Men’s Light Welterweight (64kg)
Dean Walsh will be aiming for success in Turkey where he will be without the competition of Germany and Russia. Of the competing nations, Wexford’s Walsh will be Europe’s 6th ranked fighter in a tournament where he must finish in the Top 3.
Should he need it, the Baku Worldwide tournament will be missing Russia, Germany, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Mexico, Thailand, and a further 15 nations from the qualifiers between now and then.
Men’s Welterweight (69kg)
Steven Donnelly has already qualified for the Games via last year’s World Series of Boxing.
Men’s Middleweight (75kg)
Following the blatant robbery at last year’s World Championships, Michael O’Reilly will be looking to quickly secure Olympic qualification in Turkey where he will be the #1 ranked boxer and faces a field weakened by the absences of Russia, Turkey, and Poland.
In the event that the Baku qualifier is needed, the tournament will be without Russia, Turkey, Poland, Cuba, Egypt, Uzbekistan, Algeria, and the additional 15 from the tournaments in the meantime.
Men’s Light Heavyweight (81kg)
Joe Ward has already qualified for the Games via last year’s World Championships.
Men’s Heavyweight (91kg)
Hoping to make it to a second Olympics (16kilos north of his first Games), Darren O’Neill is faced with a tough task in the heavyweight division which sees less slots available. In Istanbul the criteria is the same and the Kilkenny veteran will have to place in the Top 3 of a tournament that is without the threat of Russia, Italy, and Germany – with O’Neill ranking 9th among the remaining fighters.
If he does not qualify in Turkey, O’Neill will be up against it as he will have to win either the APB/WSB crossover event or the Worldwide qualifier.
Men’s Super Heavyweight (+91kg)
Dean Gardiner is another who faces a tough task of fulfilling his dream and making it to the Olympics – although the Clonmel boxer is in with a shout. Like O’Neill, his weight class also suffers from a lack of slots, but he will be targeting the Top 3 of the European qualifier that is missing Croatia, Germany, France, and Romania. Of the remaining field, the Tipperary giant is ranked 11th.
If unsuccessful, ‘Breakfast’ would then have the daunting task of winning either of the remaining qualifiers in Sofia or Baku.
Women’s Flyweight (51kg)
Belfast’s Michaela Walsh will be looking to book her place at the tournament in Turkey where she would need to make the final. If she does not make the final, her Olympic qualification hopes will rest on the Women’s World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan between May 19th and 27th.
In Central Asia, the Holy Trinity fighter would need to come in the Top 4, once the finishing positions of the 9 Continental qualifiers are discounted
Women’s Lightweight (60kg)
Katie Taylor, gunning for a second Olympic gold, faces the same proposition as Walsh. Make the final in Istanbul or finish in the Top 4 (minus the 9 already-qualified) at the World Championships.
Women’s Middleweight (75kg)
Thankfully, for all our brains, the Women’s qualification system is much simpler than the Men’s. Cork’s Christina Desmond is faced with the task of making the final at the European qualifier or placing in the Top 4 (minus the 9 Continental qualifiers) at the World Championships.