Box-offs could be used to determine who represents Ireland at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, according to Bernard Dunne, high-performance director for the Irish Amateur Boxing Association.
After several high-profile stars such as Kellie Harrington, Brendan Irvine, and Kurt Walker missed last week’s National Senior Finals in Dublin, the IABA is facing a selection headache in the months ahead given the national champion is traditionally in pole position in the race for international selection.
At the launch of SAS as official analytics partner to the Sport Ireland Institute, Dunne said box-offs would be considered along with a variety of factors listed in the IABA’s selection policy.
“Everything is a possibility but we’ll make those decisions when we have to make those decisions,” he said.
“We’re in no rush right now to jump at it.”
With eight months until the Tokyo Olympics, and less than four until the crucial Olympic qualifier in London, the key question is what process the IABA will use to decide between national champions and established international stars who missed the nationals through injury.
The IABA’S policy cites a number of factors that can influence selection, including national and world rankings, current form, international performances over the past two years, and head-to-head records.
Dunne admitted box-offs are also a possibility and when asked by the Irish Examiner if such bouts would be held in public, he said: “I would imagine it (they) would be.”
He said such a box-off would be officiated with a referee and judges chosen by the IABA. “You’d always find neutral judges but we’ve got good quality referees and judges in this country. I wouldn’t be worried where they’re coming from.”
On that front Dunne is optimistic the corruption that blighted the 2016 Games in Rio will not be an issue in Tokyo — the Amateur International Boxing Association permanently removed all 36 judges who worked at the previous Games.
After two-and-a-half years as high-performance director, Dunne believes the tide has turned for the better on the international stage. “I’ve been to several World Championships and European Championships and I haven’t seen any really bad decisions.
I’d be happy enough with the quality of judging.”
The IABA’s programme suffered a significant loss when Joe Ward chose to turn professional earlier this year. and Dunne wishes the gifted boxer well on his chosen path. “Joe is an incredible athlete and he’ll have a superb professional career,” said Dunne.
“He stepped away and we went and had our best ever Europeans. Six medals — a gold, two silver, three bronze. No team is made up of one athlete and that’s testament to Irish boxing — they’re producing great talent.”
Plans are being finalised to bring international teams to Dublin ahead of the key Olympic qualifiers in March and Dunne is optimistic that the team is in a strong place as 2020 looms.
We were the third highest medal winners at the European Games. The only ones who beat us were Russia and (Great Britain) which is incredible but the squad is still evolving, there’s a couple of steps we need to take. After Rio any sort of (Olympic) medal will be a bonus but I think our squad will be quite confident of achieving a serious result out in Tokyo.
After taking the position in April 2017, Dunne said he would step away from his voluntary duties with the Dublin footballers, with whom he has worked as a performance and lifestyle coach for several years, but he later returned to Jim Gavin’s backroom team.
Dunne said that “no one has ever expressed” reservations about him juggling his full-time role in boxing with his work with Dublin. “It’s a volunteer role and I give it my own spare time,” he said.
“I do have to switch off from work eventually. Boxing is first and foremost in everything that I do.”
The IABA has named Paddy Barnes as its club development officer for Ulster.
The two-time Olympic medallist announced his retirement from the ring at the weekend, having suffered his third pro defeat to Jay Harris.