Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Top facts about the Europe Boxing Qualifier in Paris

All you need to know about the Olympic qualification event which started in London last March, and will now decide the final places in Tokyo. Watch it live on olympics.com.
By Rory Jiwani

The final spots in boxing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be decided at the Road To Tokyo Europe qualifying event in Paris from 4-8 June.

Last March, the qualifier started in London before being suspended due to the escalating COVID-19 crisis.

Since then, both the Americas qualifier and scheduled final World qualifier were cancelled with Boxing Task Force rankings determining who will complete the line-up in Tokyo.

Now the top boxers in Europe will battle it out to secure passage to the Games beginning on 23 July, with every minute of every round streamed live on olympics.com.

Europe Boxing Qualifier Format

In the three days of action in London last March, 16 men booked their places in Tokyo by reaching the quarter-finals of the flyweight (48-52kg) and featherweight (57kg) classes.

The flyweights were:

Billal Bennama (FRA), Sakhil Alakherdovi (GEO), Brendan Irvine (IRL), 2019 European Games winner Gabriel Escobar (ESP), Galal Yafai (GBR), Koryun Soghomonyan (ARM), Cosmin Girleanu (ROM) and Batuham Ciftci (TUR).

The qualified featherweights are:

2017 European champion Peter McGrail (GBR), Roland Galos (HUN), Samuel Kistohurry (FRA), Tayfur Aliyev (AZE), Mykola Butsenko (UKR), Jose Quiles (ESP), Albert Batyrgaziev (ROC) and Hamsat Shadalov (GER).

A further 61 boxers - 34 men and 27 women - will make it to Tokyo via these through the qualifiers with an unknown number qualifying thanks to their position in the Boxing Task Force rankings should they not reach the latter stages in Paris.

The breakdown is as follows:

Men

Lightweight (63kg) - 8, Welterweight (69kg) - 6, Middleweight (75kg) - 6, Light heavyweight (81kg) - 6, Heavyweight (91kg) - 4, Super heavyweight (+91kg) - 4.

Women

Flyweight (48-51kg) - 6, Featherweight (57kg) - 6, Lightweight (60kg) - 6, Welterweight (69kg) - 5, Middleweight (75kg) - 4.

Where there are five or six qualifying berths, box-offs between losing quarter-finalists will be required to determined who makes the cut for Tokyo.

Europe Boxing Qualifier Venue

The remainder of the Europe Qualifier will be staged at Le Grand Dome in Villebon-sur-Yvette, 20km south-west of Paris.

Le Grand Dome is owned by the French Federation of Judo, Jujitsu, Kendo and Associated Disciplines (FFJDA) and holds 6,400 spectators, although this event will be closed to the public.

The FFJDA bought the arena from the local government in early 2018, but costs associated with the pandemic have forced a rethink of plans to make it a national centre for judo and other martial arts.

Europe Boxing Qualifier Athletes To Watch

It's straight into the action in Paris with the first day set to stage a thrilling lightweight encounter between Rio 2016 bronze medallist Mira Potkonen and British youngster Caroline Dubois.

Potkonen was the last woman to defeat Katie Taylor in the ring, ending the Irishwoman's hopes of retaining her Olympic title from London 2012 in the Rio quarter-finals.

The Finn reached the final of February's Strandja Memorial tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria but was well beaten by Brazil's reigning world champion Beatriz Ferreira.

As the highest-placed European in the BTF rankings, Potkonen should make Tokyo even if she loses.

Now 40, mother-of-two Potkonen faces an opponent half her age in Dubois who is the sister of professional heavyweight hopeful Daniel Dubois.

The 20-year-old won gold at the 2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games, and set up this tantalising clash by beating Ala Staradub on a unanimous points decision last March.

With her father keen that she follow her brother to the prestigious Repton Boxing Club, which did not admit females at the time, young Dubois pretended to be a boy to gain entry.

Inspired by compatriot Nicola Adams and fellow London gold medallist Taylor and Claressa Shields, she is determined to leave a lasting legacy in women's boxing.

Having zero ranking points due to this being her first senior competition, Dubois must beat Potkonen if she is to have a chance of making the Games.

There are two reigning women's world champions in action in Paris, stylish Turkish welterweight Busenaz Surmeneli, and British middleweight Lauren Price who formerly played international football for Wales.

Other Britons with high hopes are the McCormack twins, welterweight Pat and lightweight Luke.

Pat is the reigning European Games and Commonwealth champion and took silver at the last World Championships, going down to Russia's Andrei Zamkovoi on a majority points decision in the final.

Azerbaijan's Lorenzo Sotomayor Collazo - the nephew of high jump great Javier Sotomayor - won silver in Rio, and he could face McCormack in the final in Paris.

Luke McCormack is in one of the hottest classes of the tournament with Hovhannes Bachkov and Rio silver medallist Sofiane Oumiha the top two seeds.

Bachkov beat Frenchman Oumiha on a split decision in the 2019 European Games light-welterweight final with both men dropping down a weight since, but the Armenian faces a tough bout on the first day in Paris against Russia's European Games lightweight silver medallist Gabil Mamedov.

Oumiha has no gimme either with Moldova's Alexandru Paraschiv impressing at the Strandja Tournament and perhaps unfortunate to be on the wrong end of a points decision in the final against Ilia Popov of Russia.

In the middleweight class, look out for the awesome power of Ukraine's Oleksandr Khyzhniak who was named best boxer at the 2017 World Championships and is the reigning European Games champion.

Oleksandr Khyzhniak punches Kamran Shakhsuvarly during the Road to Tokyo Europe qualifier in London on 16 March 2020
Picture by 2020 Getty Images

Youth meets experience in the men's heavyweights with Russia's top seed Muslim Gadzhimagomedov facing the exciting Frenchman Wilfried Florentin.

Gadzhimagomedov may be the reigning world and European Games champion, but 2019 youth world champ Florentin is no respecter of reputations as shown by his superb display against world bronze medallist Radoslav Pantaleev at the Strandja Tournament with the Bulgarian benefitting from a clear hometown decision.

In the super-heavyweights, Britain's Frazer Clarke is one of the favourites having been controversially denied a medal at the 2019 World Championships.

Clarke was awarded a 3-2 split decision over home favourite Maksim Babanin in the quarter-finals, but the Russian Boxing Federation successfully appealed the verdict.

History of European boxers at the Olympics

While Cuba and the United States remain clear at the top of the all-time medal table for boxing at the Olympic Games, European countries (including the old Soviet Union) fill the next six spaces.

The Asian former Soviet states of Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have become amateur boxing superpowers, but Russia remains competitive along with the likes of France and Britain.

Ukraine is also a nation to be feared with Oleksandr Usyk and two-time gold medallist Vasyl Lomachenko both victorious at London 2012 before becoming standouts in the pro ranks, following the path of Atlanta 1996 super-heavyweight champ Wladimir Klitschko.

Anthony Joshua and Luke Campbell both won gold on home soil in London, but Europe claimed just two golds in the Rio boxing tournament courtesy of French super-heavyweight Tony Yoka and Russian heavyweight Evgeny Tishchenko.

Laszlo Papp was the first boxer to win three Olympic gold medals, the Hungarian taking middleweight gold at London 1948 before winning the light-middleweight title in Helsinki and again at Melbourne 1956.

Only Cubans Teofilo Stevenson and Felix Savon have matched that feat.

The introduction of women's boxing at London 2012 has certainly helped Europe's medal haul with the continent claiming four out of six golds so far.

Nicola Adams was the first women to win Olympic boxing gold and the British flyweight retained her title in Rio before turning pro.

Katie Taylor won lightweight gold in London with France's Estelle Mossely keeping the gold medal in Europe.

Europe Boxing Qualifier Schedule

There will be five days of boxing from 4-8 June with action across two rings for the first four days.

Of course, you can see all the action live and uninterrupted on olympics.com.

All times Paris local - CEST (GMT+2)

Friday 4 June

Afternoon session (14:00-16:45)

Women's middleweight preliminaries, men's welterweight preliminaries, men's light heavyweight preliminaries.

Evening session (18:00-21:00)

Women's featherweight preliminaries, women's welterweight preliminaries, men's middleweight preliminaries.

Saturday 5 June

Afternoon session (14:00-17:00)

Men's lightweight preliminaries, men's heavyweight preliminaries, men's super heavyweight preliminaries.

Evening session (18:00-21:00)

Women's flyweight quarter-finals, women's lightweight quarter-finals, women's welterweight quarter-finals, women's middleweight quarter-finals, men's flyweight quarter-finals, men's light heavyweight quarter-finals.

Sunday 6 June

Afternoon session (14:00-16:00)

Women's featherweight quarter-finals, men's featherweight quarter-finals, men's welterweight quarter-finals, men's middleweight quarter-finals.

Evening session (18:00-19:45)

Women's welterweight box-off qualification, men's lightweight quarter-finals, men's heavyweight quarter-finals, men's super heavyweight quarter-finals.

Monday 7 June

Afternoon session (14:00-16:15)

Women's flyweight semi-finals, women's featherweight semi-finals. women's lightweight semi-finals, women's welterweight semi-finals, women's middleweight semi-finals, men's flyweight semi-finals, men's welterweight semi-finals, men's middleweight semi-finals, men's light heavyweight semi-finals.

Evening session (18:00-20:45)

Women's flyweight box-offs, women's featherweight box-offs, women's lightweight box-offs, women's welterweight box-off, men's featherweight semi-finals, men's lightweight semi-finals, men's welterweight box-offs, men's middleweight box-offs, men's light heavyweight box-offs, men's heavyweight semi-finals, men's super heavyweight semi-finals.

Tuesday 8 June

Afternoon session (14:00-15:30)

Women's flyweight final, women's lightweight final, women's middleweight final, men's flyweight final, men's welterweight final, men's light heavyweight final.

Evening session (18:00-19:45)

Women's featherweight final, women's welterweight final, men's featherweight final, men's lightweight final, men's middleweight final, men's heavyweight final, men's super heavyweight final.