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Will Ireland be sending a new Super Heavyweight to the Olympic Qualifiers?

An Olympic super heavyweight lifeline was offered to Ireland, with the IOC Boxing Task Force opening a backdoor of sorts.

It appears that the IABA had the opportunity to replace the retired Dean Gardiner at the paused European Olympic Qualifier which is due to resume next month in Paris. The deadline for athlete swaps was April 20th and whether a move was made to swap someone new in for Gardiner remains to be seen but the prospect of a switch raises some interesting questions.

When Gardiner surprised everyone by announcing his retirement in January, it looked like the London qualifier was a write off and that Breakfast’s replacement would have to enter the final World shoot-out in Paris. It then seemed that Ireland had no hope of getting anyone at the biggest weight to Tokyo when that Paris World qualifier was cancelled.

At the time it was understood that no country could change their squad for the rescheduled European Olympic qualifiers. Those chosen for the continental qualifying tournament, which was cancelled on Day 3 of proceedings last year, would have to be sent whenever delayed proceedings resumed.

However it turns out that is not the case entirely. The IOC Boxing Task Force put in place an Athlete Replacement Policy, which did allow for teams to be changed in very specific circumstances.

If a fighter hadn’t competed on any of the three days of London qualifiers last March – and they are injured or retired – they could have been replaced for the resumed qualifier which is due to restart in Paris on June 4th.

The exact wording stated that: An Athlete Replacement is possible only provided that:
• Both the athlete who may be replaced (the “Replaced Athlete”) and the athlete replacing the Replaced Athlete (the “Athlete Replacement”) have not competed (no official result) on the first three days of the European Qualification Event;
• The Replaced Athlete did not benefit from a seeding position in the Official Draw conducted
on 13 March 2020;
• The Replaced Athlete suffers from a medical condition preventing him/her from participating to the resumption of the European Qualification Event or has voluntarily retired from the sport;

Considering Clonmel BC’s ‘Breakfast’ didn’t get the opportunity to compete in London last year and he has voluntarily retired, it would mean that he was eligible to be swapped out last month.

Whether he was or not is a different story.

The leading candidate to replace his was perhaps Galway’s Gytis Lisinskas who was chosen by Bernard Dunne to go to the Strandja Memorial earlier this year. Elites runner-up Antoine O Griofa has also been a regular at the HPU and recently was involved in a test match with Italy in Jordanstown.

National Elite champion Kenny Okungbowa would be many’s choice but the Athlone man is now competing in professional MMA with the Clan Wars promotion.

The tournament will now take place in Paris between June 4 and June 8. Brendan Irvine secured his place in London before the tournament was cancelled and Kurt Walker booked a place on the plane to Tokyo via his world ranking after the qualification shake up earlier this year.

The qualifiers will resume from where they finished on March 16th last in London where the event was shelved after three days of competition because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

At least nine Irish boxers will be in play when the qualifiers resume from where they finished almost a year ago – see fixtures and results so far below.

European Qualifiers for Tokyo 2020

Copperbox Arena London March 13/24,2020

(Tournament was postponed on March 16 because of the coronavirus outbreak)

March 17

Last 16


57kg Michaela Walsh (Ireland) v Mona Mestian (France)

60kg Kellie Harrington (Ireland) v Aneta Rygielska (Poland)

63kg George Bates (Ireland) v Javid Chalabiyev (Azerbaijan)

75kg Aoife O’Rourke (Ireland) v Viktoriya Kebikava (Belarus)

75kg Michael Nevin (Ireland) v Arman Darchinyan (Armenia)

81kg Emmet Brennan (Ireland) v Uke Smajli (Switzerland)

91kg Kiril Afanasev (Ireland) V Emanual Reyes (Spain)

March 18

Last 16


69kg Aidan Walsh (Ireland) v Wahid Hambli (France)

91kg+ Dean Gardiner (Ireland) v Petar Belberov (Bulgaria)

March 19



52kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) v Gabriel Escobar (Spain)


March 16

Last 32

69kg Aidan Walsh (Ireland) beat Pavel Kamanin (Spain) 5-0

75kg Michael Nevin (Ireland) beat Max der van Pas (Netherlands) 4-1

Last 16

52kg Brendan Irvine (Ireland) beat Istavan Szaka (Hungary) 5-0

51kg Carly McNaul (Ireland) lost Charley Davison (Team Great Britain) 0-5

57kg Kurt Walker (Ireland) lost to Hamsat Shadolov (Germany) 0-5

March 15

Last 32

63kg George Bates (Ireland) beat Leon Dominguez (Spain) RSCI1

81kg Emmet Brennan (Ireland) beat Radenko Tomic (Bosnia & Herzegovina) RSC2

91kg Kiril Afanasev (Ireland) beat Begadze Nikoloz (Georgia) 4-1

Last 16

69kg Christina Desmond (Ireland) lost to Angela Carina (Italy) 0-5

Irish squad

(Olympic qualification standard in brackets)


52kg Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s, Antrim) Cpt (Top 8) (qualified)

57kg Kurt Walker (Canal, Antrim) (Top 8)

63kg George Bates (St Mary’s, Dublin) (Top 8)

69kg Aidan Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim) (Top 6)

75kg Michael Nevin (Portlaoise, Laois) (Top 6)

81kg Emmet Brennan (Dublin Docklands) (Top 6)

91kg Kiril Afanasev (Smithfield, Dublin) (Top 4)

91+kg Dean Gardiner (Clonmel, Tipperary) (Top 4)


51kg Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road, Belfast) (Top 6)

57kg Michaela Walsh (Monkstown, Antrim) (Top 6)

60kg Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s, Dublin) (Top 6)

69kg Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s, Cork, Garda BC) (Top 5)

75kg Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea, Roscommon) (Top 4)

High-Performance Director: Bernard Dunne

Coaches: Zaur Antia, John Conlan, Dmitry Dimitruk


Integral part of the Irish boxing community for over 13 years