FIVE British boxers booked places at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday at the qualification in Paris, France. Young GB star Caroline Dubois delivered in sensational style. The previous day (June 4) the Londoner had come through a bruising contest with Mira Potkonen, the Olympic bronze medallist who eliminated Katie Taylor from Rio 2016 and who was also the top seed in this tournament. Potkonen, twice Dubois’ age and vastly more experienced, is strong and heavy-handed. But rather than allow Caroline room to box, or breathe, Potkonen barrelled into her. She pulled the Briton into headlocks, wrestled her off her feet and tried every trick to disrupt Dubois. But Caroline was robust enough to withstand the onslaught and worked to land her punches. It was an exhausting battle but Dubois came through it with a magnificent unanimous decision. Yet by her qualification bout the very next day Dubois had shaken off any aftereffects. She outboxed Italy’s Rebecca Nicoli with speed, skill and style. That unanimous decision win puts Dubois on the plane to Tokyo and the Youth Olympic champion will be a contender in the senior version of the Games.
“I feel really good. I have come here and achieved what I set out to achieve. The fight yesterday [against Potkonen] was tough, but I know what to expect. Her game plan is to bully opponents so I knew what was going to happen. The coaches did a good job. They kept me cool and I got through,” said Dubois, who won her Olympic place on the same day her brother, professional heavyweight Daniel Dubois made his comeback in Telford.
“I did not come all this way to stop now,” she added. “I want to go all the way.”
Flyweight Charley Davison is a newcomer to the GB squad but like Dubois performed with the poise and command of a potential medallist. A mother of three, Davison had seven years out of the sport before coming back and becoming a shock selection for the Olympic team last year. But she was in her element as she outpointed experienced Pole Sandra Drabik. Davison dropped her hands, moved nimbly across the ring and lacerated Drabik’s defence will straight southpaw shots, winning a dominant unanimous decision and a place at the Olympic Games.
Luke McCormack qualified in the men’s lightweight division (now 63kgs) but it was a tense three rounds. Southpaw Turk Tugrulhan Erdemir settled on to the back foot, looking to frustrate him with longer range punches. McCormack edged forward, bursting through when he could to crack his right cross into the head. Those surges of aggression saw him grab a close but deserved split decision.
Lauren Price, the World and European Games gold medallist, was undoubtedly confident of a quota place at the Tokyo Games and she confirmed her Olympic spot after two victories in France. She opened the tournament against tall host nation middleweight Davina Michel and though their bout became scrappy at times Price was a clear unanimous victor. The Welsh southpaw went to another level against a good Ukrainian in her qualification bout. Her speed, accurate jab and sharp counter-punching were in full effect as Price unanimously outpointed Anastasiia Chernokolenko, winning 30-27 for all five judges.
GB light-heavyweight Ben Whittaker became an Olympian on Saturday, though his opponents in France got rough as they sought to negate his boxing skills. In his first bout, on Friday, Whittaker used his head and body movement to weave under Paul-Andrei Aradoaie’s punches. Although the strong Romanian came into it more in the last round he couldn’t deny Whittaker a points win. Sweden’s Liridon Nuha dispensed with any niceties and threw himself at Whittaker, driving in his head, the odd forearm. It was dangerous, ugly but wasn’t going to win the Swede any points. It drew Whittaker into the wrong type of fight – a violent maul. But the Briton was a unanimous decision victor and is going to Tokyo.
Ireland qualified Kellie Harrington and Aoife O’Rourke for the Olympics. Harrington won her opening bout against Polish lightweight Aneta Rygielska, 30-27 for all five judges. Then with a Tokyo place at stake Kellie met a professional world champion Maiva Hamadouche trying her hand at Olympic boxing. Harrington served up a masterclass initially, handily outboxing the Frenchwoman. She stood her ground to trade needlessly in the third round but took a unanimous win and her Olympic berth.
O’Rourke looked good in her opening contest, beating Belarus’ Viktoryia Kebikava on a split decision. In her Olympic qualification bout she was trailing after the first round with Poland’s Elzbieta Wojcik but raised her performance in a fine effort in the second and third to win a unanimous decision.
What to watch on Sunday at the qualifier:
1pm in ring B Kariss Artingstall (GB) vs Stanimira Petrova (Bulgaria) in an Olympic qualification bout at 57kgs.
1.15pm in ring B Michaela Walsh (Ireland) vs Stephanie Thour (Sweden) in an Olympic qualification bout at 57kgs.
1.30pm in ring A Peter McGrail (GB) vs Roland Galos (Hungary) at 57kgs.
1.45pm in ring A Pat McCormack (GB) vs Eskerkhan Madiev (Georgia) in an Olympic qualification bout at 69kgs.
2pm in ring A Aidan Walsh (Ireland) vs Yevhenii Barabanov (Ukraine) in an Olympic qualification bout at 69kgs.
5.15pm in ring B Luke McCormack (GB) vs Enrico Lacruz (Netherlands) at 63kgs.
5.45pm in ring B Cheavon Clarke (GB) vs Vagkan Nanitzanian (Greece) in an Olympic qualification bout at 91kgs.
6.30pm in ring B Frazer Clarke (GB) vs Berat Acar (Turkey) in an Olympic qualification bout at 91&kgs.