WHAT IT MEANS – Olympic Boxing Qualifying Reshuffle – Who Can Qualify (and Who Can’t)

Disclaimer: None of the calculations or permutations in this article are confirmed by the IABA or the BTF. Details may be incorrect. Info sources provided and corrections and corroborations are encouraged.

A bombshell was dropped yesterday afternoon.

The Boxing Task Force (BTF) have cancelled the World Olympic Qualifier and the Tokyo slots from this will be allocated according to world ranking.

The European Olympic Qualifier – on pause since last March – will still take place but it has been pushed back to June and, with the Games pencilled in for July, there is no time for a further qualifier.

This news has an enormous impact on many Irish boxers – almost guaranteeing qualification for some and eliminating any possibility of competing at the 2020/1 Olympics for many, many others (including both current #1s and all of those who were hoping to gatecrash via the next Elites tournament).

Irish-Boxing.com boffins have spent the last day trying to decipher what it all means and here we present our workings.

To know:
– The Rankings being worked off are the BTF rankings – NOT the AIBA rankings.
– When completed, the points from the continental qualifiers will be added and will heavily impact the rankings (SUMMARY)
– Instead of the unlimited geographic free-for-all of a World Qualifier, one qualifying slot for each weight will be allocated to each Continental Confederation (This is ‘bad’ from the point of view of Europe).
– Olympic slots can be rejected so, theoretically, any ranked boxer could end up qualifying should all those above them choose not to compete at Tokyo but this would seem extremely unlikely.

Here is where we understand Irish boxing stands in each weight category.

Women’s Flyweight (51kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Ceire Smith (80 points, =29th in World, 7th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeCarly McNaul (Eliminated in Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – Sadly, there is no chance for Ceire. When the European qualifiers are completed, a number of boxers will overtake her in the rankings leaving qualification an impossibility.

Men’s Flyweight (52kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Regan Buckley (75 points, =43rd in World, =7th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeBrendan Irvine (In Last 16 and QUALIFIED)
European Qualifier Slots 8 (eight quarter-finalists)
What’s The Story – It has been re-confirmed that Brendan Irvine’s spot in Tokyo is assured. If he can win the European qualifier it would shoot him up the rankings.

Women’s Featherweight (57kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Michaela Walsh (180 points, 16th in World, 3rd in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeMichaela Walsh (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – A win over France’s Mona Mestiaen in the Last 16 would almost guarantee Michaela a slot at the Olympics as – even if she loses in the quarters and the Olympic Box-Off – as the 125 ranking points that this would provide would push her too far ahead of those behind her to be caught. The only scenario where this would not provide qualification was if top-ranked Russian Liudmila Vorontsova also won in the Last 16 but then lost in both the quarters and the Olympic box-off. If Walsh loses against Mestiaen she has no chance as she would receive no ranking points and would be unable to overtake European #2 Jemyma Betrian (Netherlands) who is not participating at the European Qualifier and therefore acts as a stopper to the Belfast talent.

Men’s Featherweight (57kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Kurt Walker (240 points, =10th in World, 2nd in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeKurt Walker (Eliminated in Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 8 (eight quarter-finalists)
What’s The Story – KURT WALKER IS GOING TO THE OLYMPICS. Walker will be the highest-ranked European boxer in the BTF ratings when you take away the eight qualifiers from London who are already confirmed. The other 7 losers from the London Last 16 will get points in the next update (Walker doesn’t because he got a bye) but none of them will get anywhere near enough to overtake Kurt!

Women’s Lightweight (60kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Kellie Harrington (200 points, 14th in World, 2nd in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeKellie Harrington (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – ALMOST THERE – If Harrington defeats Poland’s Aneta Rygielska in her opening bout at the qualifiers she is guaranteed qualification. Indeed, even if Harrington loses to Rygielska she still has a very solid chance of qualifying. The only permutation where Harrington doesn’t make it to Tokyo is if she loses to Rygielska AND Sweden’s Agnes Alexiusson wins her Last 16 bout BUT loses both her Quarter-Final and her Olympic Box-Off. In that scenario, Alexiusson will get enough points to overtake Harrington and be offered the ranking points slot.

Men’s Light Welterweight (63kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer James McGivern (30 points, =85th in World, =21st in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeGeorge Bates (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 8 (eight quarter-finalists)
What’s The Story – Essentially it’s a straight Box-Off for Bates. He faces Azerbaijan’s Javid Chalabiyev in the Last 16 and if he wins he qualifies for Tokyo. If he loses, he has no chance. Chalabiyev is no pushover either – he’s a Rio Olympian and a 2013 World Champion but that was all the way down at bantam.

Women’s Welterweight (69kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Christina Desmond (90 points, 27th in World, 7th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeChristina Desmond (Eliminated in Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – It’s not good news for the Cork boxer. The 125 points minimum that will be given to the eight quarter finalists at the European qualifier will put an Olympic slot out of reach for Desmond.

Men’s Welterweight (69kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Aidan Walsh (45 points, =61st in World, =16th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeAidan Walsh (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – So, it’s in Aidan’s hands. If he loses to France’s Wahid Hambli he is out with no chance of a rankings reprieve. If Walsh beats Hambli, the Belfast boxer has two bites of the cherry in the ring. Win either his quarter final or his Olympic Box-Off and he’s on the way to the Olympics. If he were to lose out in a Box-Off, Walsh would sit at a hefty 170 ranking points but he would need plenty of things to go in his favour to secure a slot. Namely – Pat McCormack, Andrey Zamkovoy, Lorenzo Sotomayor, Yevhenji Barabanov all to qualify for the Games. Walsh would also need Turkey’s Necat Ekinci to either lose his Last 16 bout to Austrian Marcel Rumpler or for the Turk to go all the way and qualify. Not beyond the realms of possibility by any means – but best get the business done in the ring!

Women’s Middleweight (75kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Aoife O’Rourke (20 points, 29th in World, 8th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeAoife O’Rourke (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 4 (four semi-finalists)
What’s The Story – While unfortunately her European gold medal doesn’t factor into the BTF rankings, it’s still in Aoife’s hands. First thing’s first, O’Rourke needs to beat Belarussian Viktoryia Kebikava – who she beat in her home country at the 2019 European Games – to stand a chance. Then she would have essentially an Olympic Box-Off with either European final opponent Elzbieta Wojcik or Azeri former heavyweight Aynur Rzayeva. If O’Rourke is beaten in the quarters, she can still qualify via rankings points IF British star Lauren Price, Dutch wonder Nouchka Fontijn, and Turkish veteran Sennur Demir all progress as far as the semis. The potential dream-ruiner here is a likely quarter-final between Demir and Russian Zemfira Magomedalieva.

Men’s Middleweight (75kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Michael Nevin (135 points, =22nd in world, 5th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeMichael Nevin (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – A loss for Nevin against Armenian Arman Darchinyan would end his Olympic hopes. The Armenian defeated the highly-ranked Salvatore Cavallaro in the Round of 32 and if he were to add Nevin’s scalp the Portlaise fighter would find his ranking points route blocked off by Cavallaro. Defeat Darchinyan and Nevin finds himself, like Aidan Walsh, with two chances in the ring. If Nevin were to lose both fights he would then be banking on the not unlikely trio of Russian #1 Gleb Bakshi, Ukrainian buzzsaw Oleksandr Kyzhniak, and Slovak Andrej Cesemez all qualifying to allow him take the ranking points slot.

Men’s Light Heavyweight (81kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Joe Ward (80 points, 35th in World, 9th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeEmmet Brennan (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 6 (four semi-finalists + box-offs for quarter-final losers)
What’s The Story – Nice and simple one here – Brennan needs to do his business in the ring. There is no way he can benefit from the ranking points route. First the Dub needs to beat experienced Swiss fighter Uke Smajli then he would have two shots – a quarter-final and, if needed, a box-off.

Men’s Heavyweight (91kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Kirill Afananasev (80 points, =45th in World, =16th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeKirill Afanasev (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 4 (four semi-finalists)
What’s The Story – A tall but understandable order for Dubliner Afanasev who needs to beat Spaniard Emmanuel Reyes and then either World Championships defeator Radoslav Pantaleev or former top pro Mateusz Masternak. While not 100% impossible, the ranking points route is pretty off the table – needing Afanasev to make the quarters and also have 10 other results (some of which would be enormous upsets) go in his favour.

Men’s Super Heavyweight (+91kg)
Highest Ranked Irish Boxer Dean Gardiner (20 points, =44th in World, =17th in Europe)
European Qualifier RepresentativeDean Gardiner (In Last 16)
European Qualifier Slots 4 (four semi-finalists)
What’s The Story – If he can be enticed out of retirement, nothing has changed for big Breakfast. The ranking points route cannot help Gardiner whose route is clear – win two bouts. The first of these is versus Bulgarian Petar Belberov – who beat Gardiner in the Gee-Bees in 2017 – and then it would be the winner of Armenian Gurgen Hovhannisyan and Russian Ivan Veriasov. A very tough path.

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

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