John Dennon previews GB’s hopes for the Olympics as they once again enter qualifying schedule
The road to the Olympics has never been more difficult. The Tokyo Games were postponed by a year and now the European qualification event, the March 2020 mid-tournament, was suspended from where it was left off. It resumes on 4 June, running until 8 June at Le Grand Dome in Villebon-sur-Yvet on the outskirts of Paris, France. The restructuring of the qualification process enforced by the coronavirus pandemic means there will be no other. World events, for those who did not qualify through their continent, had to be cancelled. This means that the remaining Olympic quota places will only be allocated on the Boxing Task Force’s world ranking system. In what is good news for the most highly ranked boxers in their continent, they are likely to be ranked in the Games through a second wave of allocations. But for those who do not already have a high world ranking, it all comes down to this qualifier. This will be the only chance for some to make it to Tokyo in France.
GB has several boxers in this event who must win. At 63kg, Luke McCormack was making his final preparations for his Olympic qualification bout a year ago, only to have the tournament canceled the night before. Now after this long gap, he will face Tughrul Erdemir of Turkey directly. Everything is on the line for him, win it and he will reach the quarter-finals and an assured place in the Olympic Games. George Bates will face Ireland in this division.
GB 75kg’s Lewis Richardson will need to break into the top six to qualify. But it is one of the toughest battles for him. She is set to go forward with Oleksandr Khayzniak, the most formidable obstacle between Lewis and his Olympic dream. The fearsome Ukrainian is a European and world gold medalist, heavy-handed and tireless. He cleaned out Olympic medalist Kamran Shakhsuvarli in round one in the last bout before suspending the tournament. Richardson has had to wait for over a year for this particular bout. But he is careless.
“We know who is who and we know what he did and everything is like that. But nobody had enough time to really focus on defeating him and I believe my Style and my qualities may be enough to defeat him,” Richardson told Boxing News. “It’s not a burden at all. I think the way I’ve grown and evolved, even reaching the qualifiers a year ago, was a real year of progress and improvement. I think it continues and it shows in Bokskai, having five matches in five days and winning.
“I’m growing and improving as a person and a boxer,” he continued. “I’m feeling good. We all know what he’s about. He’s just human, two arms, two legs. He’s been beaten before. He’s been beaten by a British before. [by Joshua Buatsi]. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t happen again.”
Caroline Dubois is also going into a big fight in the lighter weight. The youngster was the Youth Olympic and Youth World champion and suffered her first defeat of all time in a warm-up tournament in Serbia earlier this year. In France she must immediately box tournament top seed Mira Potkonen, a world medalist who famously ousted Katie Taylor from the 2016 Olympic Games. It is a significant challenge, but the victory will be a major statement of intent for Dubois. One that will definitely place her in the top six is the ability she needs to qualify in 60kg and the ability to star in the Olympics herself. Highly decorated Irish star Kelly Harrington will also be in the mix in this weight category.
The event also offers six Olympic venues in the women’s 51 kg category. Another new face in this GB team, Charlie Davison, is close to one of them. She boxed well to reach the quarterfinals, with Polish veteran Sandra Drabic waiting for her there.
for the super-heavyweight fraser clark The pressure must be intense. Not only has he been delayed an extra year like everyone else, this is his third Olympic cycle to make his way into the Games. He needs to reach the semi-finals to qualify and his first match will be against Croatia’s southpaw Marco Milan. “This is probably the toughest match of the tournament for me. The next bout is probably the toughest competition in the entire tournament. He is the second best fighter in this tournament besides me. Before that I boxed in 2018 when I was not in good form to be honest. I went to the European Union in Spain where I won in poor form. “I’ve improved a lot since then, he’s improved a lot since then.”
But Fraser is fired. “This game is like a snake-ladder. I’ve had ups, where I’ve felt on top of the world, then I’ve hit a snake, straight back down. I’m in shape, out of shape. In form, out of form. And I have loved every moment of it because there is no work like it,” said Clarke. “We are very let down but I love this job, I love this environment. Now is the time for me. Whatever happened in the last two years, three years, four years, six years, eight years, Makes no sense. It’s about now. I feel like I’m in good form. I’m going to say this: I feel like a forgotten man. Because I’ve been here for so long I’m from. Yes, I took a dip in form a few years ago and the results weren’t going my way… People think I’m an amateur traveler. I’m not. I don’t. Everyone who thinks I’m in Tokyo I’m not a serious contender for a medal for the . I’m in position. I like it. I just like to be quiet, crawl along quietly, keep my business in good shape. Russian, Kazakh, Uzbek, American, let them do whatever they want. Burton -on-tr Little fat Fraser Clark of the ent, he’s going to give a blow and people are going to say, ‘Oh my god, that guy that’s been there for 10 years, he wasn’t here just to participate. He is going to win the Olympic Games. Because that’s what I’m going to do. People are thinking that I have gone mad. ‘Oh you can’t beat’ [the Uzbek, Bakhodir] Jalolov.’ yes i can. I beat him before and I will beat him again.
And, as if the weeks before her first Olympic qualifier couldn’t have been more dramatic, Clarke is also celebrating the birth of her baby boy. He is inspired. “It’s been an emotional week,” he says, “with the birth of my son and we’re literally getting down to the business end now. They’ve really inspired me.”
91kg Cheven Clarke will also need to make it to the last four to make it to Tokyo. That means Chevon is two wins away, followed by Armenia’s Narek Manasyan, followed by Belgium’s Viktor Schelstrat and Greece’s Vagkan Nanizaniyan. It’s a good draw for him.
GB’s Karriss Artingstall has a tough split and a tough draw, making her tournament debut in France against Belarus’s Helina Bruyevich. But Artingstall is a force to be reckoned with at 57kgs with powerful long straight punches and mobile footwork. The event offered him six Olympic places in his weight category, but with a higher ranking in his continent, Artingstall could also be confident of being allocated an Olympic quota place, even if the event did not go as planned. . Ireland’s Michaela Walsh is another great competitor in the 57kg, entering the event with brother Aidan Walsh in the 69kg.
At 81kgs, 75kgs and 69kgs respectively Ben Whitaker, Lauren Price and Pat McCormack are the highest ranked in their weight category in Europe. This means that his place in these upcoming Olympic Games is certain. They can rubberstamp themselves in this competition.
Price, the reigning World and European Games champion, is expected to meet Nauchka Fontijn of the Netherlands once again in the final. These great rivals have been fighting each other in tournaments throughout the build-up to this Olympic Games. “She doesn’t do anything different. It’s all up to me how I can perform better and what I do. Obviously I’ve got a little more willpower to win in big tournaments because there’s a lot in big tournaments.” I think Nauchka’s position is always going to be one of them. Another two in the world, it will always be the one who will be the best on that day,” Price said.
However, her first match will be against host nation middleweight Davina Mitchell. “I’m just focusing on myself. I know if I’m ready to go, worked hard, I shouldn’t have a problem. I should be fine as long as I perform,” Welsh star Said. “I can’t wait, I am excited, nervous but I am looking forward to go ahead and qualify and now the word ‘qualifier’ will be out of my head.”
Peter McGrell, in 57kg, and Galal Yafai, in 52kg, qualified for Tokyo last year before boxing was suspended, as did Irish flyweight Brendan Irwin. But this tournament is more than just a formality. The success here would contribute to their seeding for the Olympics, which could prove crucial to setting up a medal-winning race. The road to Tokyo is heading straight into its final stage.
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