25 Asians qualify for Olympics
Leroy Brown, Gleaner Writer
After eight days of exciting competition in Astana, Kazakhstan from April 5 to April 12, 25 boxers from Asia earned themselves places to the Olympic Games in London, England (July 25 to August 13).
A total of 131 boxers from 287 countries vied for the places and in the finals, host country Kazakhstan and China, with three gold medals each, topped the medal tables. India won two gold medals and Uzbekistan and Iran shared the other two gold medals.
The road to qualification in boxing for the Olympics started in Baku, Azerbaijan, last year at the men's world boxing championships, at which 91 of the 250 places available were awarded. The remaining places are being earned in the various continents: the Americas, Asia, Africa, Europe and Oceania in qualifying tournaments.
Oceania held their qualifying tournament in March, Europe's tournament is now underway in Trabzon, Turkey, the African tournament takes place in Casablanca, Morocco from April 27 to May 6, the Americas from May 4 to May 13 in Rio de Janiero and the lone female tournament will take place in China from May 9 to May 20.
Competition was particularly keen in the lower weight classes in Astana, but the heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions did not produce the sparkle of former years. The boxers in most cases took a safety first approach and whenever a boxer went ahead in points he merely tried to protect the lead, rather than go for more points.
Because of the spaces already allotted in Baku, some divisions saw four boxers qualifying, while the only boxers to qualify in the light flyweight, lightweight heavyweight and super heavyweight divisions were the gold medal winners. In these categories, Birzhan Zhakipov from Kazakhstan, Liu Qiang from China, Ali Mazaheri from Iran and Zholei Zhang from China were the boxers who qualified.
All four boxers are very good Olympic gold medal prospects. Qiang, who is one of the better boxers in the lightweight division, had to fight hard to earn his victory against Charly Suarez from the Phillipines. Behind on points going into the final round, Suarez fought gallantly and hurt Qiang a few times, but just fell short. Qiang actually received an eight-count in the final round.
In the flyweight, light welterweight and middleweight divisions, four boxers qualified, while three boxers each from the bantamweight, welterweight and lightweight divisions also earned their places to the Olympics.