World Championships Big Preview – Can Ireland secure medals and Olympic qualification?

The 18th edition of the AIBA World Boxing Championships gets underway tomorrow at the 7,700-capacity Ali Bin Hamas Al Attiya Arena-Al Sadd. Long described as the toughest tournament in amateur boxing, the championships have gotten even tougher with the addition of qualification. Where there was previously no restriction, now just nine European boxers feature at each weight. Despite this, Ireland has managed to enter a seven-strong team who go in search of medals and Olympic qualification on the Arabian peninsula.

But it wont be easy. Over the years Ireland have secured just nine medals at the championships, the best of which being Jason Quigley’s silver back in 2013. In the past Olympic qualification via the World Championships was granted to the Top 8 finishers, but now, for some on the team, they will have to match Quigley’s feat to make it to Rio. For others they will have to win a box-off between the two losing semi-finalists for the qualification place.

Nevertheless, the team is confident and coach Billy Walsh is looking for two medals to add to the four he has already overseen as head High Performance Unit – John Joe Nevin (bronze 2009, 2011), Joe Ward (bronze 2013), Jason Quigley (silver 2013).

Boxing in Doha begins on Tuesday with the draw taking place on Monday.

Below irish-boxing.com profiles the Irish team as well as trying to clarify the mind-boggling Olympic qualification system.

Qualification Headaches
The World Championships will serve as the final Olympic qualifier in 2015, in addition to the completed AIBA Pro Boxing Phase 1 and Season V of the World Series of Boxing. There are a further three qualification opportunities next year – a European qualifier in Turkey in April, a World qualifier in Azerbaijan in June, and a WSB/APB crossover qualifier in May.

Interestingly, unlike previous years, the number of qualification slots available via the April 2016 European Qualifier is fixed. While obviously Ireland will want to qualify for the Olympics this week, if they do not make the tough criteria they will certainly be hoping for European domination of the qualification spots in Qatar – thus thinning out the field next year in Turkey.

Additionally, with boxers having already qualified via the APB and WSB, it is in our best interested for these boxers, or boxers from their nations, to fulfill the qualifying criteria in Doha.

Bear with us now because this gets confusing.

If it is the already-qualified boxer themselves, they will automatically free up a qualification spot below them at the World championships.

If a different boxer from the same country as an APB/WSB qualified boxer fulfills Rio qualification criteria, it is then up to that national federation to decide, via box-off or otherwise, who to send to Rio – and this potentially frees up a qualification spot from the World Championships if the WSB/APB-qualifed boxer is chosen.

Clear as mud!

Team Profiles

Brendan Irvine
Light Flyweight (49KG)
Date of Birth: 17/5/1996
Club: St Pauls, Antrim
Qualified for Qatar through European Games 2015 – 2nd place.
Honours: 2015 European Games (silver), 2015 National Elite Champion.
Odds for Gold in Doha: 15/2

The Wee Rooster has been one of the break-out stars of the Irish team in 2015. Still only 19, he has established himself as a World class light flyweight. There has been much talk ahead of these championships about what will transpire if Irvine secures an Olympic qualifying quota as Ireland have already qualified Paddy Barnes at the weight. However, Irvine is ignoring this talk and just looking to focus on his own boxing as he aims to win his second major international medal in as many tournaments.

Qualification situation: The top two light flyweights in Doha will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016.
WSB-qualified boxer: Paddy Barnes (Ireland) – Not in Doha.
APB-qualified boxers: Lü Bin (China), Birzhan Zhakypov (Kazakhstan) – Neither in Doha nor a boxer from their countries.
Brendan Irvine therefore has to reach the final to fulfill Rio qualifying criteria.

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Michael Conlan
Bantamweight (56kg)
Date of Birth: 19/11/1991
Club: Clonard BC, Antrim
Qualified for Qatar through European Elite Championships 2015 – 1st place.
Honours: 2012 Olympics (bronze), 2015 European Elite Championships (gold), 2013 European Elite Championships (silver), 2015 WSB (second place), 2014 Commonwealth Games (gold), National Elite Champion 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.
Odds for Gold in Doha: 7/4 FAV

Captain Conlan is the star of the Irish team out in Doha. The switch-hitting maestro will be aiming for gold at the championships as he seeks to become the first Irishman to complete a clean sweep of major international medals (Olympic, World, European, and Commonwealth). A boxer, a fighter, a southpaw, an orthodox, power, finesse – Conlan has it all, and the Belfast man will be gunning for gold in Qatar and Rio, before going for World titles in the pros.

Qualification situation: The top three bantamweights in Qatar will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016, the finalists and the winner of a box-off between the losing semi-finalists.
Conlan has already qualified for Rio 2016 through the World Series of Boxing.

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Sean McComb
Lightweight (64kg)
Date of Birth: 14/08/1992
Club: Holy Trinity BC, Antrim
Qualified for Qatar through European Games 2015 – 3rd place.
Honours: 2015 European Games (bronze) – Baku, National Elite Champions 2013, 2015.
Odds for Gold in Doha: 14/1

Previously described as the least-known of the Belfast Boys, Sean McComb has become a household name in 2015. In June he won his first major international medal at the European Games and then in September he hit the headlines again for stopping two robberies in the same day in his native Belfast. At 6 foot tall, McComb is the biggest lightweight in Elite amateur boxing – and his size, speed, southpaw stance, and World class skill has led many to view him as a Dark Horse for gold in Qatar.

Qualification situation: The top three lightweights in Qatar will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016, the finalists and winner of box-off between losing semi-finalists.
WSB-qualified boxers: Lázaro Álvarez (Cuba), Albert Selimov (Azerbaijan) – Both in Doha
APB-qualified boxers: Berik Abdrakhmanov (Kazakhstan), Hurshid Tojibaev (Uzbekistan) – Neither in Doha but both countries have sent different boxers – Zakir Safiullin and Elnur Abduraimov repectively.
Sean McComb will be targeting outright qualification but there may be additional places offered if the above boxers achieve the qualification quota – which is likely considering that Álvarez and Selimov are favourite and second-favourite for gold in Doha respectively.

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Dean Walsh
Light Welterweight
Date of Birth: 25/6/1994
Club: St Josephs/St Ibars (Wexford)
Qualified for Qatar through European Elite Championships 2015 – 3rd place.
Honours: 2015 European Elite Championships (bronze), National Elite Champion 2014, 2015.
Odds for Gold in Doha: 20/1

One of the most-improved boxers on the team, Dean Walsh has become a World class light welterweight. After disappointments and controversy at the EU championships and European Games, the yellow-belly secured his maiden international medal in August’s European Championships – and the nephew of Head Coach Billy will be hoping to surprise a few more people in Qatar.

Qualification situation: The top three light welterweights in Qatar will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016, the finalists and the winner of the box-off between the losing semi-finalists.
WSB-qualified boxers: Yasniel Toledo (Cuba), Raúl Curiel (Mexico) – Toledo is in Doha.
APB-qualified boxers: Armen Zakaryan (Russia), Artem Harutyunyan (Germany) – Neither in Doha, but Russia have sent a different boxer, Vitaly Dunaytsev who edged out Walsh in the Euroepan Championships semis.
Dean Walsh will be targeting outright qualification but there may be additional places offered if Toledo or Dunaytsev achieve the qualification quota – which is likely considering that Toledo is the favourite for gold in Doha.

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Adam Nolan
Welterweight
Date of Birth: 11/3/1987
Club: Bray BC
Qualified for Qatar through European Elite Championships 2015 – 6th place/
Honours: 2012 Olympian, National Elite Champion 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015.
Odds for Gold in Doha: 14/1

The punching policeman is the elder statesman of this Irish team, but 2015 has seen Nolan put in some of the performances of his life as he looks to make it to a second Olympics. At the recent European Championships, the Wexford man proved that he can mix it with the best by defeating the APB #1 and WSB #2 ranked boxers – both of whom had already qualified for Rio. If Nolan can maintain this level of performance in Doha there are very few boxers capable of defeating him.

Qualification situation: The top three welterweights in Qatar will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016, the finalists and the winner of the box-off between the losing semi-finalists.
WSB-qualified boxers: Mohammed Rabii (Morocco), Radzhab Butaev (Russia) – Rabii is in Doha.
APB-qualified boxers: Onur Şipal (Turkey), Andrey Zamkovoy (Russia) – Neither in Doha nor a boxer from their countries.
Adam Nolan will be targeting outright qualification but there may be an additional place offered if Rabii achieves the qualification quota.

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Michael O’Reilly
Middleweight (75kg)
Date of Birth: 30/4/1993
Club: Portlaoise BC, Laois
Qualified for Qatar through European Games 2015 – 1st place.
Honours: 2015 European Games (gold), National Elite Champion 2014, 2015.
Odds for Gold in Doha: 3/1

The latest in a long line of world class Irish amateur middleweights, Michael O’Reilly is one of the favourites in Qatar after winning a glorious gold at the European Games this Summer. A complete package, O’Reilly is targeting Olympic gold next year and continues his journey to Rio next week full of confidence.

Qualification situation: The top three middleweights in Doha will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016, the finalists and winner of box-off between losing semi-finalists.
WSB-qualified boxers: Petr Khamukov (Russia), Arlen López (Cuba) – both in Doha.
APB-qualified boxers: Artem Chebotarev (Russia), Michel Tavares (France) – Russia have sent Khamukov and there is no French representative.
Michael O’Reilly will be targeting outright qualification but there may be additional places offered if the above boxers achieve the qualification quota – which is likely considering that López and Khamukov are joint-favourites for gold in Doha.

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Joe Ward
Light Heavyweight
Date of Birth: 30/10/1993
Club: AIBA Pro Boxer (formerly of Moate BC, Westmeath)
Qualified for Qatar through European Elite Championships 2015 – 1st place.
Honours: 2013 AIBA World Elite Championships (bronze), 2015 & 2011 European Elite Championships (gold), National Elite Champion 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014.
Odds for Gold in Doha 3/1.

Joe Ward is a monster. After an unsuccessful (Olympic qualification-wise) period on the APB circuit, the Westmeath man has returned to the 3×3 minute format with vigour, romping to gold at the European Championships. Strong as a bull and quick as a cat, Ward can bully or outbox almost any opponent. Still 21, he will be aiming to secure Olympic qualification here so he does not have to go through the European qualifier route in Turkey – the site of his most controversial loss. Ward will also be targeting a gold at these championships to add to the World Championship golds he won at youth and junior level.

Qualification situation: The top two light heavyweights in Doha will earn qualification quota places for Rio 2016.
WSB-qualified boxers: Valentino Manfredonia (Italy), Julio César la Cruz (CUB)- both in Doha.
APB-qualified boxers: Matthew Bauderlique (France), Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran) – Neither in Doha, but Iran have sent a different boxer, Hassan Shahini.
Joe Ward will be targeting outright qualification but there may be additional places offered if the above boxers achieve the qualification quota – which is likely considering that La Cruz is the favourite for gold in Doha.

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: [email protected]