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Ireland’s three female competitors at the European Olympic qualifier in Samsun, Turkey
by Michael O'Neill
(with additional reporting IABA and AIBA staff)
April 5, 2016

(APR 5)  Ireland’s three female competitors at the European Olympic qualifier in Samsun, Turkey are today finishing their intensive pre-tournament training camp in Assisi, Italy before moving on to the Black Sea port later in the week.

Some familiar faces will be taking part once more though among those ‘missing’ will be Russia’s Sofia Ochigava no longer their 60kg representative.

That role now falls to reigning AIBA World 64kg champion Anastasia Beliakova in the absence of Ochigava who has never fully recovered from injuries sustained in previous competitions despite trying so hard to recover the form she showed so often in those stirring battles of yesteryear with Irish ‘friend and foe’ Katie Taylor.

A total of 233 men and 59 women, representing 39 European nations, will be chasing 36 qualification spots for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games (six for women, 30 for men) during the 10 days of competition at the AIBA European Olympic Qualification Event, held in Samsun, Turkey 9-17 April.

A host of boxing’s biggest stars – including London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallists Katie Taylor (IRE) and Nicola Adams (GBR) and 2011 and 2013 AIBA World Boxing super heavyweight champion Mahammadrasul Majidov (AZE), 2015 EUBC European Confederation Boxing Champion Eimantas Stanionis (LIT), APB Turkish top boxers Adem Kilicci and Onur Sipal and German WSB boxer Baku 2015 European Games bronze medallist Hamza Touba and APB boxer Serge Michel – will be stepping in to the ring in Samsun in pursuit of one of the sport’s most sought after prizes.

There are 10 weight categories for men, ranging from light flyweight up to super heavyweight. The two finalists from each division will receive a quota spot for the Rio 2016 Games, while the two losing semi-finalists will take part in a box-off for the third and final qualification place.

The women, yet again, will compete only in three weight categories; flyweight, lightweight and middleweight. The two finalists in each class will win a quota at the coming Olympic Games.

In the women’s draw, despite strong competition, no name stands out quite so brightly as Katie Taylor. Ireland’s lightweight star is the reigning Olympic, World and European champion, unbeaten in all competition since 2011 and widely considered to be the best ‘pound-for-pound’ female boxer on the planet.

While Taylor starts as favourite in the lightweight class, Adams, the London 2012 flyweight champion, is the one to watch in her division and Dutch star Nouchka Fontijn takes the honours in the middleweight category.

Seven other AIBA Women’s World Boxing champions also line up: two-time champion Anna Laurell of Sweden (middleweight), Savannah Marshall of Great Britain (middleweight), Elena Saveleva of Russia (flyweight), Anastasia Beliakova of Russia (middleweight), Maria Badulina-Bova of Ukraine (middleweight), Gulsum Tatar of Turkey (lightweight) and Stanimira Petrova of Bulgaria (flyweight).

Turkey’s Tatar, on home soil, is worthy of note for she missed much of last season and is one of the few boxers who have defeated Taylor.

No Natasha Jonas for Britain either since she has retired and is replaced by Chantelle Cameron who given a favourable draw could medal here. There has been a late change to Team Ireland as Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michaela Walsh from the Holy Family club in Belfast has had to withdraw and is replaced by Cavan’s Ceire Smith.

Ireland are fortunate to have such an able deputy since the Cavan woman is very experienced in major international competition and has with Taylor, represented Ireland in major championships in recent years.

Joe Ward, Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan, who are also training in Assisi, have already qualified for Rio 2016.

If Cork middleweight Christina Desmond, books a ticket for Rio, she’ll become, along with Ward, one of only two Irish boxers to represent their country at both the Youth Olympics and Olympics.

Ward, a World Youth gold medallist, lined out at the 2010 Youth Olympics in Singapore, and Desmond, a World Youth silver medallist, at the 2014 Youth Olympics in China.

Irish squad European Olympic qualifiers Samsun, Turkey April 9th/17th - Boxing begins Saturday at the Mustafa Dagýstanlý kapalý spor salonu in downtown Samsun.


51kg Ceire Smith (Cavan BC)
60kg Katie Taylor (Bray BC)

75kg Christina Desmond (Fr Horgan’s, Cork)

52kg Brendan Irvine (St Paul’s)
60kg David Oliver Joyce (AIBA Pro Boxing)
64kg Dean Walsh (St Joseph’s/St Ibars)
75kg Michael O’Reilly (Portlaoise)
91kg Darren O’Neill (Paulstown)
91+kg Dean Gardiner (Clonmel)

Team Manager: Joe Hennigan
Coaches: Zaur Antia, Eddie Bolger, John Conlan

Olympic Games Qualification system: http://iaba.ie/site3/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Rio2016QualificationSystem-Boxing.pdf

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