The AIBA European Olympic Qualification Event begins in Samsun, Turkey on 9 April, with 30 men’s and 6 women’s quota places available for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. With some of the continent’s greatest boxing talent on display, here are some of the names to watch over the coming days.
Women’s Flyweight class (51 kg)
Great Britain’s 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Nicola Adams returned from injury last year to win the 2015 European Games and now looks ready to defend her title in Rio. Bulgaria’s defending World Champion Stanimira Petrova is set to be her biggest rival for quota places in Samsun, while Italy’s EUBC European Women’s Champion Marzia Davide and Poland’s Baku 2015 European Games silver medallist Sandra Drabik are also strong favourites.
Women’s Lightweight class (60 kg)
Ireland’s national icon and 2012 Olympic Games winner Katie Taylor shows no sign of slowing down after taking the European Games title last year, but the light welterweight champion at that tournament, Russia’s current AIBA Women’s World Champion Anastasia Beliakova, moves to lightweight with hopes of causing an upset in Samsun.
Great Britain’s Chantelle Cameron, France’s AIBA Women’s World Championships bronze medallist Estelle Mossely and Finland’s Mira Potkonen, winner at several major events over the last two years, are also among the favourites to reach the final. Italy’s defending AIBA Women’s Youth World Champion Irma Testa and Sweden’s former AIBA Women’s Youth World Champion Agnes Alexiusson are the names to watch for the future at lightweight.
Women’s Middleweight class (75 kg)
Netherlands’ Nouchka Fontijn has secured the EUBC European Confederation, 2015 European Games and recent Strandja Memorial Tournament titles and remains the name to beat in Turkey. Great Britain’s current AIBA World Champion Savannah Marshall, Sweden’s two-time AIBA Women’s World Champion Anna Laurell and Russia’s four-time National Champion Iaroslava Iakushina are capable of pushing her all the way.
German EUBC European Confederation silver medallist Sarah Scheurich, Azerbaijan’s London 2012 Olympian Elena Vystropova, France’s Erika Guerrier and Lidia Fidura of Poland could all cause an upset in a strong field.
Men’s Light Flyweight class (49 kg)
AIBA Worlds bronze medallist Dmytro Zamotaev will be hoping to secure the Ukraine’s first boxing berth in Rio, but he could face Galal Yafai, the British boxer who replaced Harvey Horn in the national squad and has shown impressive form in AOB and WSB events over the last six months.
Spain’s 19-year-old Samuel Carmona defeated Russia’s AIBA Worlds silver medallist Vasiliy Egorov in the recent Strandja Memorial Tournament and will be looking to cause an upset once more, while Azerbaijan’s 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner Rufat Huseynov, Turkish WSB star Hamza Kartal, Bulgarian Tinko Banabakov and Italy’s London 2012 Olympian Manuel Cappai are all among the favourites.
Men’s Flyweight class (52 kg)
Great Britain’s EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships silver medallist Muhammad Ali has shown the world what he is capable of with some stirring performances during WSB Season VI. He will be pushed hard by Italy’s 2008 Olympic bronze medallist Vincenzo Picardi, looking for his third Olympic competition.
Bulgaria’s defending EUBC European Confederation Champion Daniel Asenov and Ireland’s 2015 European Games silver medallist Brendan Irvine, are also strong favourites in Samsun, alongside Spain’s talented teenager Gabriel Escobar. Germany’s WSB star Hamza Touba, Hungarian EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships bronze medallist Nandor Csoka, Georgia’s Avtandil Tchubabria and Moldova’s experienced Alexandr Riscan are also likely to be strong contenders for the quota places.
Men’s Bantamweight class (56 kg)
Azerbaijan’s Javid Chalabiyev was crowned AIBA World Champion in 2013 and looks back to his best after a brief dip in results. Great Britain’s EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships silver medallist Qais Ashfaq and Ukraine’s AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Mykola Butsenko both look in excellent form at bantamweight.
Turkey’s Ibrahim Gokcek arrives off the back of a great WSB run and an APB win over Azerbaijan’s Javid Chalabiyev, while Armenia’s EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships bronze medallist Aram Avagyan, Beijing 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist Veaceslav Gojan and Romania’s Razvan Andreiana have the potential to reach Rio.
Men’s Lightweight class (60 kg)
Great Britain’s EUBC European Confederation Champion Joseph Cordina will be a firm favourite at lightweight.
Italy’s former AIBA World Champion Domenico Valentino, Ireland’s strong APB boxer David Oliver Joyce, France’s 2015 European Games silver medallist Sofiane Oumiha and Netherlands’ EUBC European Confederation silver medallist Enrico La Cruz are all looking in top form just before the start of the event. Hungary’s Miklos Varga will be eagerly pursuing his third Olympic Games, and talented teenagers Angelo Bernard Torres of Norway, Romania’s 18-year-old Robert Jitaru and Moldova’s EUBC European Youth Champion Dorin Bucsa are ones to watch for the future at lightweight.
Men’s Light Welterweight class (64 kg)
Great Britain’s EUBC European Confederation Championships silver medallist Pat McCormack arrives on the back of a great run of form and has every opportunity to make it to Rio at light welterweight, along with tough APB competitor Batuhan Gozgec
Azerbaijan’s 2015 European Games winner Lorenzo Sotomayor is the tallest boxer in the weight class and his reach has proven a powerful weapon, while Lithuania’s London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Evaldas Petrauskas, Italy’s 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner Vincenzo Arecchia and Ukraine’s Baku 2015 European Games bronze medallist Viktor Petrov are all in top form.
Men’s Welterweight class (69 kg)
Lithuania’s EUBC European Confederation Champion and APB welterweight hero Eimantas Stanionis travels to Samsun with dreams of winning gold and an Olympic slot in Rio, while Italy’s London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Vincenzo Mangiacapre and Hungary’s former EUBC European Confederation Champion Balazs Bacskai are set to be his main rivals for glory.
Belarusian Pavel Kastramin and Germany’s AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Araik Marutjan are also strong favourites, and Sweden’s newest talent Oliver Flodin and Georgia’s powerful Gela Abashidze will be the rising stars to watch at welterweight.
Men’s Middleweight class (75 kg)
France’s EUBC European Confederation Youth Champion Christian Mbilli Assomo won five big international events in 2014, and despite some unexpected losses last year he returns in top shape with Rio on his horizons. Ireland’s 2015 European Games winner Michael O’Reilly will be another gold contender in what looks like being the hardest-fought weight category in Samsun.
Further strong Olympic contenders are Great Britain’s AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Anthony Fowler, Hungary’s 2012 Olympic Games quarter-finalist Zoltan Harcsa and Romania’s APB boxer Bogdan Juratoni. Azerbaijani 24-year-old Kamran Shakhsuvarly won the Bocskai Memorial Tournament two months ago and will push for the final along with Italy’s Salvatore Cavallaro, Croatia’s 2014 Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Luka Plantic and Netherlands’ Max Van der Pas.
Men’s Light Heavyweight class (81 kg)
Great Britain’s Joshua Buatsi has defeated Azerbaijan’s 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Teymur Mammadov and the Netherlands’ EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships silver medallist Peter Mullenberg in recent months, making him a firm favourite in Samsun at light heavyweight.
Ukraine’s AIBA Youth World Champion Oleksandr Khyzhniak is also fired up for success in Samsun, while Germany’s APB boxer Serge Michel, Armenian AIBA Youth World Champion Nikol Arutyunov and Estonia’s top talent Ainar Karlson all have realistic designs on a Rio quota place.
Men’s Heavyweight class (91 kg)
Azerbaijan’s AIBA World Championship bronze medallist and 2015 European Games winner Abdulkadir Abdullayev has a great chance of securing his Rio berth in Turkey over the coming week and a half, with his biggest rivals set to be Ukraine’s AIBA World Championship bronze medallist Gevorg Manukian and new French sensation Paul Omba Biongolo, who defeated Italy’s two-time AIBA World Champion Clemente Russo in AOB competition last November.
Belarus’ AIBA World Championship bronze medallist Siarhei Karneyeu, Latvia’s Nikolajs Grisunins and Ireland’s London 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill could all leave Samsun with Olympic glory on their minds, while the home crowd’s WSB favourite Seyda Keser and Poland’s EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships silver medallist Igor Jakubowski have enough experience to reach the finals. Other names to watch are the Dutch 20-year-old Roy Korving and Hungarian sensation Gergo Savoly.
Men’s Super-Heavyweight class (+91 kg)
Azerbaijan’s two-time AIBA World Champion Mahammadrasul Majidov returns to AOB competition in Samsun and has an excellent chance of earning himself an Olympic place along with Great Britain’s 2015 European Games winner Joe Joyce, who returned to WSB action last month with a spectacular knockout.
Russia’s new National Champion Maxim Babanin also has a great chance to win the gold, while Bulgaria’s EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships bronze medallist Petar Belberov will be looking to mark his arrival on the weight class with an Olympic place. Turkey’s Ali Eren Demirezen and Hungary’s Istvan Bernath have notched up good international experience in APB bouts ahead of the qualifiers, while Italy’s Guido Vianello, three-time Ukraine National Champion Viktor Vykhryst, Georgia’s EUBC European Confederation bronze medallist Mikheil Bakhtidze and Denmark’s WSB hope Kem Larsen are also among the medal contenders in Samsun.