London in the spotlight as Europe prepares for Boxing Olympic Qualifying event

First chance for boxers from European region to book tickets to compete at Tokyo 2020 takes place at the Copper Box in the British capital from 14th March. Here's our round-up of how to watch the action and who to focus on

By Ron Lewis

After Dakar and Amman, all eyes turn to London, where the biggest of the Olympic Boxing Qualifying Tournaments is due to take place.

A total of 342 boxers representing 45 nations have entered and there are 77 places in Tokyo up for grabs, 50 for men, 27 for women.

The large number of places means that in many divisions boxers only have to reach the quarter-finals to earn their Olympic spot.

Eleven days of boxing action is set to begin at the Copper Box, a venue built for the London 2012 Olympics, with the first bouts in starting at 12:00 noon (GMT/UTC) on Saturday 14th March.

Here's our preview of who to watch out for in the live action, which you can watch every day of the event, without subscription or payment, right here on Olympic Channel.

Which nations will be competing in London?

There are boxers from 45 different countries attending these European qualifiers.

Italy are in East London, despite the travel clampdown in their country as a result of the coronavirus. The team, which had been training in the south of Italy, well away from the coronavirus hot spots and they travelled to the UK on March 3.

Also competing are Russia, despite the country currently being banned from the Olympic Games in Tokyo this summer. That suspension that is under appeal, so Russia still have places to compete for.

Having won three gold medals at both the men’s and women’s World Championships last year – both of which were held in Russia – they are likely to be strong.

Home fans have high hopes for hosts

The home team in London will be among the favourites, with some even daring to suggest that Great Britain could qualify a full team for the first time since the Barcelona Olympics in 1992.

Leading the home team will be Pat McCormack, a welterweight whose twin brother, Luke, fills Britain’s lightweight slot. A silver medal-winner at the World Championships, he boxed at Rio 2016 and has also win European and Commonwealth Games gold medals.

Galal Yafai, the younger brother of former WBA super-flyweight champion Kal, is another veteran of Rio and will be among the leading lights at flyweight, having beaten Yosvany Veitia, the Cuban defending champion at the World Championships, although 21-year-old French boxer Billal Bennama, who won a medal at the worlds, could be the one to beat.

Peter McGrail is also a highly-ranked British boxer, at featherweight, with some even likening his style to Ukrainian legend Vasyl Lomachenko.

Caroline Dubois, Britain’s lightweight, has been selected despite never having boxed as a senior, although she did have a glittering career as a junior, which included gold at the Youth Olympics and Junior World Championships.

Other notable contenders in London

Hovhannes Bachkov (Armenia) and Sofiane Oumiha (France) could be ones to watch at lightweight, having met in the final of the European Games in the now defunct light-welterweight division.

The standout middleweight is Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhiniak, who has won a World Championship gold medal, two European golds and is on a long winning run.

Ukraine also have one of the biggest hopes at featherweight in Mykolo Butsenko, while hopes are high for Ireland’s Kurt Walker, who won European Games gold.

Ireland has two serious medal prospects in the women’s divisions, in the form of Michaela Walsh, at featherweight, who lost to Nicola Adams in the 2014 Commonwealth Games final, and Kellie Harrington, the lightweight. The experience Stanimira Petrova, from Bulgaria, could be the one to beat at featherweight.

Of Russia’s world champions, the pick could be the heavyweight, Muslim Gadzhimagomedov, whose world gold backed up a gold medal at the second European Games last year.

Super-heavyweight could feature something of a grudge match between Maksim Babanin, of Russia, who claimed a World Championship bronze medal after a jury overturned his defeat to Britain’s Frazer Clarke.

In the women’s divisions, two reigning world champions are due to be in action, 21-year-old Turkey welterweight Busenaz Surmeneli and Lauren Price the Britain middleweight, a 25-year-old former footballer, who also won Commonwealth Games gold in 2018.

Find out how they get on by watching the action live, every day of the event, without subscription or payment, right here on Olympic Channel.


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