The AIBA Oceania Olympic Qualifying Event in Canberra, which begins 20 March, will be the last remaining opportunity for boxers in that region to qualify for the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer. It will be tightly contested in the Australian capital with only the winners of each weight division rewarded with a quota place for London.
Australia's Youth Olympic Games winner, Damien Hooper is the only fighter to have already secured his Olympic participation following his run to the quarter-finals at the last AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku. The 20-year-old Light Heavyweight narrowly lost to eventual winner Julio de la Cruz and will now be hoping to make a big impact this summer.
Australia achieved nine out of the possible eleven quota places for the Beijing Olympic Games while Papua New-Guinea and Samoa each took one. New Zealand, on the other hand, failed to send a single representative. This time around though, they will be hoping to make amends by proving they have the talent to secure at least two quota places for themselves in Canberra.
Whatever happens in Oceania, all of the boxers who make it to the Olympic Games will be making their debuts in the event. Once again, Australia competes with a maximum number of nine athletes while Tonga and New Zealand have both sent huge delegations to Canberra which includes seven boxers each.
The Australian national team has been preparing at the venue of this Qualifying Event since 13 February while four Oceania boxers were involved in the AIBA Road to London Program and were put through their paces by Welsh legend Colin Jones.
Australia have three teenagers in their squad, including Jai Opetaia, who captured the gold medal at the AIBA Junior World Championships in Astana last year. If this talented Heavyweight qualifies from the AIBA Oceania Olympic Qualifying Event, he could become the youngest participant in the boxing event at the London Olympic Games at just 17 years of age. AIBA Youth World Championships quarter-finalist and Commonwealth Youth Games silver medallist Jackson Woods is also a great prospect for his country and stands a good chance in the Flyweight category. The third teenager is newly crowned Light Flyweight champion, 18-year-old Billy Ward.
The most experienced boxer in the Australian team is Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Luke Jackson, who suffered an extremely narrow loss against world class Cuban Yasnier Toledo in Baku. That fight showcased all of his offensive and defensive qualities. Top welterweight boxer Cameron Hammond and National Olympic Trials winner Ibrahim Balla have also been selected to take part in Canberra.
Youth Olympic Games silver medallist and WSB star Joseph Parker will be competing for New Zealand in the Super Heavyweight division and his compatriot, Oceania Middleweight Champion Joseph Blackbourne, also has gold medal aspirations.
The best boxer of the last National Elite Championships in New Zealand was 20-year-old Harrison Scaife, who made it a third family generation to triumph in the Light Welterweight class, he will be one to watch in Canberra. This young Kiwi fighter's major rival for top spot will be also Australia's Arafura Games winner Jeff Horne.
Tonga will send two excellent fighters to the AIBA Oceania Olympic Qualifying Event this month with Oceania Champion and Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Uaine Fa a real crowd pleaser. This 22-year-old Super Heavyweight has been one of the stars of this season's World Series of Boxing competition with the Venky's Mumbai Fighters. The king division also includes Australia's Johan Linde. There is great anticipation to see who will finish first in the race for gold.
Tonga's other big name in the competition is New Zealand-based Lomalito Albert Moala, also a bronze medallist at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi. The young Tongan was part of the AIBA Road to London Program and after going through one of the toughest three-week training programs in the Welsh capital Cardiff, he will fully focused on realising his dream of finishing first and booking his place for the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Nauru, in Micronesia in the South Pacific, will be sending two quality boxers to Canberra with Lightweight Colan Caleb and AIBA World Championships competitor Joseph Deireragea looking to make a name for themselves. Both were also involved in the AIBA Road to London Program and this preparation has greatly increased their chances of making history for the world's smallest republic. Caleb will be in direct competition with Moala for that single quota place.
Papua New-Guinea's talented teenagers Charles Keama, Kauko Raka and Henry Umings are great prospects for their country and one may just be able to defy the odds and qualify for the Olympic Games. Samoa's best hopes are two gold medallists from the last Pacific Islands Games, 20-year-old Henry Tyrell at Welterweight and Petelo Matagi at Middleweight.
This promises to be an extremely competitive and equally intriguing competition.
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