The Road to Rio – updated qualification landscape

The dust is settling on the European Olympic Qualifier in Samsun, Turkey, which saw two further Irish boxers book their places in Rio

With three separate qualifiers remaining, and seven spots still up for grabs, irish-boxing.com here gives you all you need to know about the remainder of the Olympic qualification campaign.

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)
Brendan Irvine has already qualified for the Games via the European Olympic Qualifier.

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 has already qualified for the Games via the European Olympic Qualifier.

Men’s Light Welterweight (64kg)
Dean Walsh proved in Samsun that he is one of the top boxers at the weight, losing a contentious split-decision to #1 seed Lorenzo Sotomayor. The Wexford man now needs to finish in the Top 5* at the final Worldwide qualifier in Baku, Azerbaijan, in June. Threats here for Walsh will come from the likes of Gary Russell (brother of the WBC featherweight champion), Britain’s Pat McCormack, Korean wonderkid Hyunchul Lim, Ukrainian Viktor Petrov, and Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov.

Also gunning for a spot in Brazil is Ray Moylette. The Mayo man is eligible for the APB/WSB qualifier this Summer (date and location to be confirmed) which will be fought over a 3×3 minute rounds format with the Top 3 fighters qualifying for Rio. Threats here include Ukrainian Vyachyslav Kyslytsyn.

It has also been suggested that European Games lightweight bronze medalist Sean McComb could move up to 64kg and perhaps box-off with Dean Walsh for the right to represent Ireland in Azerbaijan.

*It has yet to be confirmed whether the Top 5 includes the quarter finalist who loses to the eventual gold medallist or if the four losing quarter finalists box-off in a semi-final and final format for the remaining spot.

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, and injury at the recent European Olympic Qualifier, Azerbaijan represents the last chance saloon for the incredibly talented Michael O’Reilly.

Threats to O’Reilly’s chances of securing a Top 5 place in Baku include Indian 2012 Olympian and 2011 World Championships bronze medalist Vikas Yadav who holds a win over the Irishman. Also dangerous are Ecuador’s Marlo Delgado and Mongolian Shinebayar Narmandakh.

Men’s Light Heavyweight (81kg)
Joe Ward has already qualified for the Games via last year’s World Championships.

Men’s Heavyweight (91kg)
In Samsun, Darren O’Neill once again proved he can mix it with any heavyweight on the planet, dropping a dubious split decision to Azeri star Abdulkadir Abdullayev. Unfortunately for the Kilkenny boxer it seems unlikely that he will compete in another WSB bout so he is therefore ineligible for the WSB/APB qualifier. Due to the smaller number of places available at the larger weights, O’Neill now has to win the final qualifier in Azerbaijan.

While he is up against it, O’Neill will take confidence from his close losses to Gevorg Manukian, Evgeny Tishchenko and Abdulkadir Abdullayev. Threats in Baku include New Zealand youngster David Nyika, U.S internet sensation Cam Awesome, former Ukrainian foe Manukian, and tough Pole Igor Jakubowski.

Men’s Super Heavyweight (+91kg)
Dean Gardiner is probably the man with the toughest route to Rio of any of Ireland’s remaining boxers. ‘Breakfast’ will need to win either the WSB/APB qualifier or the final Worldwide qualifier.

Threats to the Tipperary giant include Russians Maxim Babanin and Magomed Omarov, Istvan Bernath of Hungary, and Bulgarian Petar Belberov.

Women’s Flyweight (51kg)
There was heartbreak in Samsun for last-minute injury replacement Ceire Smith who was edged out on a split decision by Ukrainian Tatyana Kob. It would be assumed that National champion Michaela Walsh will retake the spot for the upcoming World championships in Kazakhstan next month where there are Rio qualification spots for the four semi-finalists.

Threats to progression in Astana include Britain’s Olympic champion Nicola Adams, Bulgarian defending World champ Stanimira Petrova, European champion Marzia Davide of Italy, American World #1 Marlen Esparza, and Indian legend Mary Kom.

Women’s Lightweight (60kg)
Katie Taylor was a shock non-qualifier in Samsun, and will look to get back on the horse in Kazakhstan. Here the Bray fighter will aim for a sixth consecutive gold. In therms of Olympic qualification, Taylor needs to reach the semi-finals or, failing that, hope that Yana Alekseevna or Irma Testa reach the final four.

While the dominant Taylor holds multiple wins over practically every female lightweight of note, an early rounds rematch with Azerbaijan’s Yana Alekseevna is something our blood pressure could do without.

Women’s Middleweight (75kg)
A natural welterweight, Cork’s Christina Desmond shocked many with a win over Dutch #1 seed Nouchka Fontijn in Samsun, proving she can mix it with the best. Threats to the younster sealing a semi-final spot in Central Asia are numerous. Fontijn will be searching for revenge, Team USA’s Olympic gold medalist Claressa Shields will be hot favourite, and there will be danger posed by the likes of Li Qian (China), Savannah Marshall (Britain), Anna Laurell (Sweden), Yaroslava Yakushina (Russia), and Petra Szatmari (Hungary).

Photo Credit – Ricardo Guglielminotti: The Fighting Irish (@ThefIrish)

Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on irish-boxing.com, Boxing News, the42.ie, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: joneill6@tcd.ie