The fourth continental selection tournament for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the AIBA European Olympic Qualification Event, began on Saturday with a full schedule and huge Olympic dreams for the 263 boxers taking part. After the general weigh-in, official draw and opening ceremony, the first bouts of the competition got underway in Samsun, Turkey, with 207 men competing for 30 quota places and 56 women chasing 6 available Olympic berths.

Saturday saw twenty preliminary contests between the Women’s Flyweight (51kg), Women’s Lightweight (60kg), Men’s Flyweight (52kg), Men’s Light Welterweight (64kg), Men’s Heavyweight (91kg) and Men’s Super Heavyweight (+91kg) boxers, and it was the Turkish and Irish teams that made the biggest impression early on.

After Germany’s WSB star and 2015 European Games bronze medallist Hamza Touba had despatched Belarus’ Siarhei Loban at flyweight to reach the last 16, Ireland’s EUBC European Confederation bronze medallist Dean Walsh earned his team’s first win as he powered past Czech Republic’s Erik Agateljan in their light welterweight contest.

The home crowd’s APB hero and Liventsev Memorial Tournament winner Batuhan Gozgec then brought the stadium to life with a comfortable display against Norway’s Hadi Srour at light welterweight, before Irish National Super Heavyweight Champion Dean Gardiner booked his place in the next round at the expense of another Norwegian, Simen Nysaeter.

A second home favourite, Neriman Istik, got the women’s competition off to a lively start as she beat Poland’s Sandra Drabik in the opening flyweight bout, then it was Armenia’s AIBA Youth World Champion and elite-level newcomer Anush Grigoryan who controlled her tie against the Greek boxer Antonia Papoutsaki. Sweden’s AIBA Women’s Youth Lightweight World Champion Agnes Alexiusson was also able to dominate her opening match against Serbia’s Milena Matovic.

“I felt in good shape during the bout and I had fun. The first contest is always a bit nervy in a big tournament, especially one like the AIBA European Olympic Qualification Event, but this was only the first step and I know I have to do more in the upcoming contests to accomplish my goal,” said Alexiusson, who has been one of the most successful women’s youth and junior boxers of recent years.

Great Britain’s lightweight star Chantelle Cameron suffered a big Olympic setback as she lost out to Azerbaijan’s AIBA Women’s World silver medallist Yana Alekseevna in the preliminary round, before Russia’s Anastasiia Beliakova marked her return to the national squad at lightweight by defeating Ukraine’s tough Iuliaa Tsyplakova.

The men’s heavyweights then wrapped up a thrilling opening day of action with Lithuania’s Great Silk Way Tournament winner Tadas Tamasauskas earning a straightforward win over Serbia’s Milutin Stankovic, before Bulgaria’s Kristiyan Dimitrov won his tie against Armenian Rafayel Simonyan with a TKO in the third round.

“We analyzed my first Serbian opponent just before the bout and found a weak point in his movements. My mission in the bout was to punch fast with my left hand and move back to keep the distance. I was faster than my rival and that speed helped me to win this first important contest,” said Lithuania’s AOB star Tamasauskas.