Ireland captain Brendan Irvine qualified for Tokyo 2020 at the Copperbox Arena in London last night at a tournament that was abandoned because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) Boxing Task Force (BTF) announced yesterday that the European qualifiers for the 32nd Olympiad were postponed as of the final session last evening after three days into the 11-day competition in the English capital.
Irvine needed to finish in the top eight, and the Belfast flyweight and Rio 2016 Olympian did that last night after beating Hungary’s Istavan Szaka on an unanimous decision to reach the quarter-finals.
But Antrim feather Kurt Walker, the current European champion, dropped a unanimous verdict to Germany’s Hamsat Shadolov, who had former Irish coach Eddie Bolger in his corner, with an Olympic 57kg place on the line.
Irvine, who represented Ireland at Rio 2016, punished durable Budapest puncher Szaka in a dominant performance to become a two-time Irish Olympian.
Sixteen Olympic berths were claimed in the flyweight and featherweight limits last evening.
Shortly before yesterday’s second session, the BTF said that the qualifiers, which were scheduled to run until March 24, were postponed “amid increasing global travel restrictions and quarantine measures”.
According to sources, the Olympic places won will stand, and the competition will restart at the point it finished in London when the tournament is rescheduled, probably for next May. The Irish team, which includes 2018 World champion Kellie Harrington who was due to fight tomorrow, are expected to come home today.
Laois middleweight Michael Nevin and Antrim welter Aidan Walsh advanced to the last 16 yesterday, but Carly McNaul lost.
Walsh had way too much ring craft and firepower for Estonia’s Pavel Kamanin; the Commonwealth finalist earning two 10-8 rounds en route to a unanimous verdict.
Nevin progressed on a 4-1 split decision over Max Van Der Pas, with the Dutch fighter picking up a facial cut after a clash of heads in the second round.
Ireland’s Emmet Brennan, George Bate,s and Kiril Afansev also posted wins in London, but Christina Desmond, Walker, and McNaul lost.
Yesterday’s decision was taken “in light of the constantly changing landscape worldwide,” the BTF statement said.
“Safeguarding the well-being of the athletes, officials and all other participants is a top priority for the BTF. Since the preparation phase of the event, the BTF has been working in close cooperation with the Local Organising Committee (LOC) and delivery body of the competition, its stakeholders, as well as with its medical experts and with national health authorities, to set up the necessary precautionary measures.”
However, it has now decided to suspend the event “amid increasing global travel restrictions and quarantine measures, in order to allow the participants from over 60 countries to adjust their travel plans and return home”.
The BTF added it would “continue to evaluate the situation daily, aiming to complete the distribution of the remaining Tokyo 2020 boxing quota places in May and June.
“The BTF’s priority remains the qualification of athletes on the field of play, and it will inform all stakeholders as soon as more information is available.”