Tokyo – There’s still one day of the European Olympic Boxing Qualification Tournament to go, but the ultimate prizes – tickets to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games – have already been won.
Monday (7 June) saw 13 more boxers secure their Olympic berths, battling through gruelling three-round bouts where each punch can take you one step closer to your Olympic dream. As their hands were raised above their heads in victory, dreams a lifetime in the making were fulfilled in an instant.
The finals, which take place on Tuesday 8 June, are worth bragging rights, boosted confidence and, not insignificantly, improved Olympic rankings. But the big one – the chance to represent your country on the greatest sporting stage of them all – is already set in stone for Europe’s best and brightest boxers.
Box-offs seal final Olympic tickets in all-or-nothing evening of action
Monday evening’s action focused on box-offs between losing quarter-finalists to decide Tokyo 2020 berths in weight classes where six qualification spots were on offer.
The evening began with Svetlana Soluianova winning ROC’s eighth Olympic ticket as she won her flyweight box-off against Yuliya Apanasovich of Belarus. Croatia’s Nikolina Cacic was the next boxer to win her box-off with a split decision featherweight win over Turkey’s Aycan Guldagi.
Next up it was Team GB’s Karriss Artingstall’s turn to book a spot in Tokyo as she exchanged leather with Sweden’s Stephanie Thour in their featherweight bout. Artingstall became the 11th and last Great Britain boxer to qualify for the Games.
Poland’s third seed Sandra Drabik overcame the challenge of Nina Radovanovic of Serbia to win her flyweight box-off and a place at the Olympics.
One of the most impressive performances of the night was France’s Maiva Hamadouche who overpowered Kata Pribojszki of Hungary to win her box-off. The lightweight, who became a world champion in the professional ranks, spoke to Tokyo 2020 in September last year about the differences between the professional and amateur game:
“In amateur boxing, we learn a lot of the technical aspects. It’s a work of precision, detail. It’s like a goldsmith: a small shift of the foot, a precise punch with a coin-size target, timely execution,” she explained. “Olympic Boxing teaches me a lot about that side of things.”
READ MORE: Maïva Hamadouche: ‘I want to become the first professional world champion to win Olympic gold’
On a night when dreams were made and crushed in equal measure, Nikoleta Pita broke down in tears as she was beaten by Italy’s Rebecca Nicoli in their lightweight box-off. It was was one of many poignant moments that demonstrate just how much the Games mean to athletes who are coming to the end of a five-year Olympiad – one that has dominated their waking thoughts and nightly dreams since the curtain went down on the Rio Olympic Games in 2016.
Standing counts and split decisions define last day of men’s competition
In the men’s competition, cuts ended the dreams of Belgium’s Lancelot Proton De La Chapelle and Sweden’s Adam Chartoi who were forced out of contention in their middleweight box-offs due to unintentional lacerations. Vitali Bandarenka of Belarus and Giorgi Kharabadze were the benefactors as they secured their tickets to the Summer Games.
Eskerkhan Madiev was next to qualify for Tokyo 2020 after winning his welterweight box-off. After causing his opponent to take a standing count in the opening three, the Georgian boxer needed to withstand a spirited final round onslaught to secure his ticket to the Games.
Belarusian boxer Aliaksandr Radzionau won a split decision match to secure a hard-earned Tokyo berth. His Olympic dream was eventually realised after a 4-1 victory over Necat Ekinci saw him advance to the Games.
Following that, Ireland’s Emmet Brennan won a bruising encounter against Lindon Nuha of Sweden in his Tokyo 2020 qualifier. When the final points were counted, Brennan was ahead on one judge’s card and level on four, with a final count seeing the Irishman declared the winner.
The final Olympic qualifier of the night saw Bayram Malkan of Turkey face off against ROC’s Imam Khatev. In a one-sided bout, the Russian boxer secured his country’s 10th Olympic boxing spot and the last of an enthralling Olympic qualifier.
It was the last taste of action before the Tokyo 2020 boxing competition begins on 24 July 2021 in Kokugikan Arena.