Thursday at the AIBA African Olympic Qualification Event in Yaoundé, Cameroon, saw 26 superb semi-finals of men’s and women’s boxing play out, with the male winners all securing their places at Rio 2016 ahead of Friday and Saturday’s box-offs and finals.

Home favourite Simplice Fotsala got the day off to a great start for the Cameroon team as he narrowly defeated Kenyan veteran Peter Mungai Warui to become the first boxer at the tournament to confirm his place in Rio. Fotasala will now meet Mathias Hamunyela in the light flyweight final after the Namibian confirmed his qualification by beating South Africa’s Sibusiso Bandla.

Tunisian Bilel M’Hamdi edged past another favourite for bantamweight gold, Mohamed Hamout, in a split judges’ decision, and will face fellow Olympic qualifier Suntele Inkululeko of Lesotho for the gold on Friday evening.

Algeria’s Reda Benbaziz finally found his best form to beat Seychelles’ Andrique Allisop and set up a final against Egypt’s Mahmoud Abdelaal, who stopped Tunisia’s Alaa Shili early on in their lightweight semi-final.

Namibian lightweight Jonas Junius Jonas managed to turn up the heat after a slow start against Cameroon veteran Babou Mahaman Smaila, guaranteeing his place in Rio and a final showdown against Morocco’s Hamza El Barbari on Friday afternoon.

The host nation’s number one, 18-year-old middleweight Wilfried Dieudonne Seyi Ntsengue showed his Olympic pedigree against Congo newcomer Mpi Anauel Ngamissengue, before Mauritius’ Merven Clair defeated Morocco’s Said Harnouf to join him in the final.

Mauritian Joseph Kennedy St. Pierre overcame Togo’s Kevin Kuadjovi to reach the heavyweight final against Algeria’s APB boxer Chouaib Bouloudinats.

“I wasn’t feeling so fresh after my quarter-final and didn’t box my best today, but I am happy that I won the bout and achieved an Olympic quota place. I could not fight in London 2012 but I will be there in Rio de Janeiro, and that has been my sole target over the last four years,” said a content Joseph Kennedy St. Pierre after his semi-final. Nigeria’s Efe Ajagba then closed out the session by beating Tunisia’s Aymen Trabelsi in the super heavyweight semi-final, and will face Morocco’s APB boxer Mohammed Arjaoui for the gold.

Algerian flyweight star Mohamed Flissi got the evening session underway with a win against Lesotho’s Moroke Mokhotho, and with his Olympic place assured, Flissi will now prepare for Saturday afternoon’s final against the South African 21-year-old Sikho Nqothole.

Kenyan 29-year-old Rayton Nduku Okwiri narrowly missed out on qualification for Rio through the APB Cycle last year, but didn’t let a second chance pass him by as he beat Ghana’s experienced Azumah Mohammed to set up a showdown with Egypt’s Walid Sedik Mohamed.

Algeria’s two-time Olympic Games quarter-finalist Abdelhafid Benchabla overcame Uganda’s strong WSB boxer Kennedy Katende, and will now go for light heavyweight gold against Egypt’s Abdelrahman Salah Orabi.

The three women’s competitions rounded off Thursday’s action, with Moroccan Zohra Ez Zahraoui defeating Algeria’s top female Souhila Bouchene at flyweight and will now face Nigeria’s Caroline Linus in the final.

Cameroon’s Yannick Azangue Aubiege got the home crowd going as she inflicted a surprise defeat on Nigeria’s All Africa Games winner Edith Agu Ogoke and Aubiege now has a shot at an Olympic place on Saturday afternoon against Morocco’s Rio Test Event winner Khadija Mardi, who eliminated Mozambique’s Rady Gramane at middleweight.