There was pandemonium yesterday in Irish boxing circles due to goings-on over 4,000km away.
At the Russian National Championships in Samara, welterweights Andrey Zamkovoy and Radzhab Butaev went head-to-head with potential Olympic qualification on the line – not only for themselves, but for Hungary’s Gyula Kate and Ballymena’s own Steven Donnelly.
A repeat of the 2014 final, veteran Zamkovoy gained revenge over the reigning champion and to put himself and, by extension, Donnelly, in the frame for a place at Rio next Summer.
However, as always, nothing is confirmed until Friday December 4th and, hypothetically, Russia could still choose to use their WSB-won slot and send Butaev – however this would be a sensational injustice considering yesterday’s fight. Indeed the Moscow Minister for Sport has already congratulated Zamkovoy on his Olympic qualification.
After the bout Zamkovoy spoke to R-Sport about the win, explaining that “I assumed that the opponent will constantly fly forward and put pressure on me, and I just had to execute the plan set by my coaches.”
Zamkovoy admitted that it was a tough fight against the younger man, noting that “we had to calmly work at a distance, but sometimes I still broke – I wanted to fight, my emotions were going wild.”
On the potential enormity of the bout, Zamkovoy reasoned that “today, for me it was the most important fight of the year – and I am pleased that I have won.”
Looking forward, the 2012 Olympic bronze medalist is craving another shot next Summer, noting that “ahead will be many more challenges before the Olympics. I hope that I can go through good preparation and go to Rio. ”
Russian head coach Alexander Lebzjak also gave his thoughts to Vostok Media on the clash, believing that “it was an emotionally hard fight for the boxers, who know each other.”
Nevertheless, he feels that the win was well-deserved, arguing that “in my opinion, Andrey Zamkovoy was a bit more precise, and the win was rightly given to him.”
Most importantly for Donnelly and Ireland, Lebzjak spoke of the Olympic situation, explaining that “it can now be said that the success in Samara has given him [Zamkovoy] a small advantage in competition with Butaev.”
“We must not discount either athlete – both are proven guys who took first and second place.”
“Now we can officially declare one participant at the Olympics, but if there is to be something unforeseen, the Olympic spot will go on the other.”
“So I want to tell Andrey and Razhab not to relax, but to continue to train hard.”
Note: It is our understanding that Lebzjak is referring to a hypothetical situation where if Russia were to confirm Zamkovoy on Friday and he were to later injure himself in the run up to the Olympics, Butaev would be able to replace him without affecting the qualification of Donnelly – as Butaev would be availing of the confirmed APB-quota place won by Zamkovoy for Russia.