AmateurFeaturesHeadline NewsNews

The Tokyo Trail – Which Irish boxers have the best chance of Olympic qualification?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is liffey-crane-hire-1.jpg

The European Olympic qualifiers got underway in London this afternoon and, tomorrow, Irish boxers will start punching for a place at the Tokyo Games.

Click here for opening schedule

The full draw is now known for the first of two tournaments that offer spots in Japan and it is a relatively good draw for Irish boxers.

Below look ahead at what could be in store for our 13 boxers at the Copper Box Arena.

As always, we would request that readers do not share this breakdown with the fighters involved as they take a ‘one fight at a time’ approach.

Women’s Flyweight – 51kg
Olympic Slots – 6 – (Needs TWO wins)
Carly McNaul (Ormeau Road)
The Wrecking Ball faces British newcomer Charley Davison in the Last 16. Win this and it would be a fight for a place at the Games with either Ukranian Tetyana Kob or Pole Sandra Drabik, two decorated veterans. A quarter final loss would also give McNaul a second chance in a box-off.

Men’s Flyweight – 52kg
Olympic Slots – 8 – (Needs ONE win)
Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s)
The team captain, back from long-term injury, has Hungarian Istvan Szaka, an established international, for a spot at the Games.

Women’s Featherweight – 57kg
Olympic Slots – 6 – (Needs TWO wins)
Michaela Walsh (Monkstown)
The number #2 seed will likely face Frenchwoman Mona Mestiaen first, a European bronze medallist. Then it would be evergreen Ukranian Iuliana Tsyplakova who has come down from lightweight where she fought both Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington. A loss in the quarters would give Walsh a second chance in a box-off, and there would be little to fear here.

Men’s Featherweight – 57kg
Olympic Slots – 8 – (Needs ONE win)
Kurt Walker (Canal)
The reigning European champion has a bye straight into the Last 16 and will ‘just’ need to beat inexperience Belarussian Anton Charnamaz or German Hamsat Shadalov who has come down from lightweight.

Women’s Lightweight – 60kg
Olympic Slots – 6 – (Needs TWO wins)

Kellie Harrington (St Mary’s)
The double World medallist has a bye into the Last 16 where she will probably face Pole Aneta Rygielska – a silver medallist at light welter in last year’s Euros. Then it would be an intriguing Olympic decider versus IBF super-featherweight world champion Maiva Hamadouche. Lose to the French KO artist and it would be would be into the box-off mix for Harrington.

Men’s Light Welterweight – 63kg
Olympic Slots – 8 – (Needs THREE wins)
George Bates (St Mary’s)
Maybe has the toughest draw of all Irish fighters. It’s Spaniard Leon Becerra first followed by, probably, Azeri former world champ Javid Chalabiyev. Then it would be another former world champ in French star Sofiane Oumiha.

Women’s Welterweight – 69kg
Olympic Slots – 5 – (Needs TWO or THREE wins)
Christine Desmond (Fr Horgan’s)
The Cork puncher has #3 seed Angela Carini first in the Last 16. The Italian won a silver at last year’s Euros before dropping down to light welter to win silver in the Worlds and then returning to 69kg here. Experienced French fighter Emile Sonvico and a spot at the Games would be next up. Lose in the quarters and it would be a pair of box-offs.

Men’s Welterweight – 69kg
Olympic Slots – 6 – (Needs THREE wins)
Aidan Walsh (Monkstown)
The Belfast counter-puncher has Estonian Pavel Kamanin first followed by in-form Frenchman Wahid Hambli. Get through these two and Walsh has two bites of the cherry for an Olympic spot – most likely versus Ukrainian Yevhenii Barabanov, a double European bronze medallist, or a very winnable box-off.

Women’s Middleweight – 75kg
Olympic Slots – 4 – (Needs TWO wins)
Aoife O’Rourke (Castlerea)
The unseeded reigning European champion has Belarussian Viktoria Kebikava – who she beat last year – first. Then it will likely be Euro Games bronze medallist Elzbieta Wojcik for a berth in Tokyo.

Men’s Middleweight – 75kg
Olympic Slots – 6 – (Needs THREE wins)
Michael Nevin (Portlaoise)
The midlander has a long journey in the busiest weight class. First it’s experienced Dutchman Max Van Der Pas in the Round of 32 before a chance to avenge his Euro Games semi-final knockout loss to Italian Salvatore Cavallaro. Win these two fights and Nevin has two shots at Japan – versus, probably, Georgian Giorgi Kharabadze or a box-off against either Frenchman Victor Yoka, brother of Tony, or Brit Lewis Richardson.

Men’s Light Heavyweight – 81kg
Olympic Slots – 6 – (Needs THREE wins)
Emmet Brennan (Docklands)
First up for the Dub is Bosnian Radenko Tomic in the Round of 32 followed by either Greek Polyneikis Kalamaras or Swiss Uke Smajli. Get through these two winnable fights and Brennan has two chances. An open division, it looks like it would be Armenian Euro Games bronze medallist Gor Nersesyan first then, if needed, a winnable box-off. A dark horse for qualification.

Men’s Heavyweight – 91kg
Olympic Slots – 4 – (Needs THREE wins)
Kirill Afanasev (Smithborough)
Where it starts to get really tough. It’s Georgian Begadze Nikoloz first followed by Romanian Cristian Filip for Afanasev. Then he would have to overturn a 4-1 split loss to Bulgarian Radoslav Pantaleev from last year’s Worlds.

Men’s Super Heavyweight – +91kg
Olympic Slots – 4 – (Needs TWO wins)
Dean Gardiner (Clonmel)
The big man has a mountain to climb, as always. It’s Bulgarian Petar Belberov first up whom he lost on a split to back in 2017. Then it would be either Armenian seed Gurgen Hovhannisyan or Russian Ivan Veriasov.

Drawsheets can be seen HERE


Joe O'Neill

Reporting on Irish boxing the past five years. Work has appeared on, Boxing News,, and local and national media. Provide live ringside updates, occasional interviews, and special features on the future of Irish boxing. email: