By IABA Press Officer Bernard O’Neill
Ireland’s AOB, WSB and APB boxers are heading into a crucial New Year with four roads remaining to Rio 2016.
The first qualifier for men and women will take place in Istanbul, Turkey in May following by the AIBA World Elite Women’s Championships in Kazakhstan next May.
WSB and APB boxers meet in a tournament in May and the final qualifier – for men – is in Baku, Azerbaijan next June.
So far, Paddy Barnes, Michael Conlan, Steven Donnelly and Joe Ward have qualified for Rio 2016 in the light-fly, bantam, welter and light-heavy classes.
Nine further places will be up for grabs for Irish boxing between now and next summer.
Meanwhile, Brendan Irvine, Kurt Walker, Dean Walsh, Adam Nolan, Michael O’Reilly, Darren O’Neill and Dean Gardiner joined an illustrious group last Friday after winning – they also claimed Elite belts in January – their 2nd Elite titles of 2015 at Dublin’s National Stadium.
In 2003, Olympic silver medallist Ken Egan, Andy Lee, the current WBO champion, Andrew Murray, Paul Hyland, Paul McCloskey and Alan Reynolds secured two Elite belts apiece in the same twelve months.
The IABA – as they are for the Rio 2016 qualifiers – ran the National Elite Championships twice in 2003 to assist Ireland’s boxers heading into the Athens 2004 qualifiers, with Lee, who defends his WBO belt against British 2008 Olympian Billy Joe Saunders on Saturday, becoming Ireland’s only representative at Athens 2004, although Egan, Murray and McCloskey were unlucky not to book tickets for the 28th Olympiad.
Meantime, Irvine is the only one of the above group to secure a brace of titles in the same year at two different weight classes – light-fly and fly.
He also scooped the Best Boxer Award last Friday.
Remaining roads to Rio 2016
Men and Women: Istanbul, Turkey, April 20/May 1
Men: Sofia, Bulgaria, May 13/22
World Women’s Elite Championships, Astana, Kazakhstan May 19/27
Men: Final World qualifier: Baku, Azerbaijan, June 7/19