Wednesday saw a packed schedule of quarter-final action at the AIBA European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Turkey, as the ten men’s and three women’s weight categories took to the ring knowing that a win puts them within one match of a Rio 2016 quota place. Of the eighteen teams with boxers still in the competition, Great Britain now have nine athletes keeping their Olympic dreams alive, Armenia and Azerbaijan five and the Ukraine and host nation Turkey, four.
Early in the day, and in a repeat of the 2014 World Championships bantamweight final in Jeju, Bulgaria’s Stanimira Petrova defeated Italian Marzia Davide at their new flyweight class, setting up a semi-final showdown with Ukraine’s Tetyana Kob, who eliminated Ireland’s new sensation Ceire Smith.
“I feel so excited to have done it. It was really my key bout against the strong and experienced Italian but I was confident and able to follow my tactics until the final bell. I now have to keep my focus in the semi-final as I am so close to reaching my goal,” declared Bulgaria’s reigning AIBA Women’s World Champion and AIBA Ambassador for the Astana 2016 Women’s World Championship.
British favourite Nicola Adams controlled her tie against France’s Sarah Ourahmoune to take another step towards defending the Olympic title she won in London four years ago. Also AIBA Ambassador for the Astana 2016 Women’s World Championship, Adams will now meet Norwegian Marielle Hansen, who eliminated the Armenian AIBA Youth World Champion, Anush Grigoryan.
Another reigning Olympic champion, Ireland’s Katie Taylor, looked as strong as ever against Denmark’s veteran Yvonne Baek Rasmussen, and after a devastating final round will face Azerbaijan’s Yana Alekseevna in the lightweight semi-final for a place in Rio.
“Katie Taylor knew what she was doing and when to do it. It was a comfortable win and she took all four rounds, but she boxed well within herself and the result was never in doubt,” said a content Irish team manager Joe Hennigan after the bout.
Ireland’s Christine Desmond couldn’t quite summon the same performance that saw her eliminate top middleweight seed Nouchka Fontijn in the previous round, as she fell to Hungary’s former AIBA Youth World Champion Petra Szatmari. The Hungarian will meet Sweden’s former two-time AIBA Women’s World Champion Anna Laurell after she eliminated France’s Erika Guerrier in one of the closest bouts of the day.
“To be honest, my Irish opponent was better in the first round, she had clear punches and her footwork was great, so at the first break we decided to change tactics and use different combinations in my attacks and raise my rhythm. My jabs stopped her and the continuous attacks pressurized her during the second part of the contest,” said Petra Szatmari after her key quarter-final.
In the men’s competition, Azerbaijan’s Lorenzo Sotomayor defeated Greek light welterweight Alexandros Tsanikidis, and his chances of gold were improved after Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov delivered a great performance to win over British favourite Pat McCormack.
Fellow Brit Joe Cordina did progress to the lightweight semis along with Ireland’s APB star Oliver Joyce, before the Dutch light-heavyweight top-seed Peter Mullenberg overcame Norway’s Surkho Shamilov.
“The key moment was in the second round when I managed to increase the pressure. It wasn’t my best fight but I won clearly so I can give more in the semi-finals against my strong Turkish opponent. I have to be at my very best after the rest day because I really want to be the first Dutch boxer at the Olympic Games for 24 years,” said Mullenberg.
The crowd then lifted Turkish WSB star Nadir Unal to a rousing win over Azerbaijan’s London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Teymur Mammadov, and Britain’s Joe Joyce progressed to the super heavyweight semi-finals along with Azerbaijan’s two-time AIBA World Champion Mahammadrasul Majidov.
Spain’s new spearhead Samuel Carmona Heredia powered through against Azerbaijan’s 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner Rufat Huseynov at light flyweight, and Great Britain’s Lawrence Okolie overcame home favourite Seyda Keser. Okolie’s teammate Anthony Fowler reached the semi-finals with a convincing win over Romania’s Bogdan Juratoni, while Hungary’s London 2012 quarter-finalist and British Lionhearts WSB boxer Zoltan Harcsa eliminated Ukraine’s Dmytro Mytrofanov in the pick of the middleweight quarter-finals.