THE EYES OF the Irish boxing world will be on the National Stadium tonight as the controversial Open Unseeded Elite Competition gets underway.
With the World Amateur Boxing Championships just around the corner, the four-day national tournament was once thought to be ideal preparation as Ireland’s fighters get ready to challenge the world’s best.
But, over the past few days, controversy has surrounded the competition and its role in the selection process for the Irish squad for the Worlds.
Here’s everything you need to know.
When are the World Amateur Boxing Championships?
The World Amateur Boxing Championships take place next month from 22 September to 10 October in Baku, Azerbaijan.
Why are they so important?
Apart from the fact that the Worlds are an opportunity for the Irish boxers to prove that they are the best in their weight division, they are also one of only two qualifying tournaments for next year’s London Olympics.
Any fighter who doesn’t secure an Olympic place in Baku next month will have to fight for a spot at a tournament in Istanbul next April. If they lose in Turkey, they won’t be going to the Olympics.
Who decides who we’re sending to the Worlds?
The Irish Amateur Boxing Association (IABA) is the sport’s governing body in Ireland, and it is their officers who will decide who gets to travel to Baku next month. The squad is due to be ratified at a meeting of the Boxing Council on Saturday week, 20 August.
How do they make their decision?
This is where the problem arises. The IABA can use whatever criteria they feel appropriate to select the squad which should, in theory, give them the opportunity to send the country’s best fighters to Baku.
Initially, the IABA said that the Open Unseeded Elite Competition, a four-day boxing tournament which begins this evening in the National Stadium, was created in order “to assist with their selection process” for the Worlds — which would have left them with a bit of flexibility when naming the squad.
But, last Friday, the IABA’s Officer Board decided that they will recommend that the winners of this week’s competition be named as the Irish team for the Worlds.
So whoever wins goes to the Worlds? Sounds fair…
Yes, in theory it is all very egalitarian, but there are a number of problems.
Crucially, most of the country’s best fighters are not expected to compete at this week’s tournament due to injury. In this morning’s Irish Independent, Vincent Hogan writes that Joe Ward, Ray Moylette, Paddy Barnes, John Joe Nevin, Willie McLoughlin and Darren O’Neill are all expected to withdraw from the tournament today.
So, if the IABA stick to their guns, Ireland could end up sending a team to Baku that doesn’t contain reigning European champions Ward and Moylette, as well as a host of other stars.
And, to make matters worse, all of these fighters will then face a win-or-bust scenario in Istanbul next year if they are to qualify for the London Olympics.