Africa to get boxing's road to 2020 Olympics underway

Everything you need to know about the African boxing qualifiers, including who to follow and how to watch.

By Ron Lewis ·

The Boxing Road to Tokyo finally begins on the outskirts of Dakar, Senegal, on Thursday when the first Olympic qualifying tournament gets underway.

A total of 33 places – 22 for men, 11 for women – at the Olympic Games this summer will be up for grabs in the first of four continental qualifying tournaments to decide the boxers who will get the chance to compete for 13 sets of medals in Japan.

The African qualifying event starts the 2020 boxing schedule and will be followed by the Asia/Oceania qualifier in Amman, then the European event in London and the Americas qualifying tournament in Buenos Aires. For those that don’t make it through their continental event, there will be one final chance to qualify for Tokyo 2020 in Paris in May.

You can watch all the action from Dakar, as well as the other four Olympic qualification tournaments, exclusively digitally on Olympic Channel. Here's a guide to the qualification system.

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Africa's time?

Morocco and Algeria, two powerhouses of African boxing in recent years, are expected to do well in Dakar, along with Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Hopes are high, too, of a good showing by Kenya.

Africa has had a barren time of it in boxing at recent Olympics. There was only one medal won by the continent – a bronze for Morocco won by Mohammed Rabii – in Rio de Janeiro four years ago and there were none in London in 2012. Indeed, there has not been an African boxer compete in an Olympic final this century – super-heavyweight Mohamed Aly, from Egypt, won his semi-final in 2004 in Athens but withdrew from the final because of injury.

It is not a shortage of talent, but a lack of resources that tends to make the difference. While many bigger boxing nations tend to tour the globe for training camps, it can be a struggle for some African nations to raise the money to attend tournaments.

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Ones to watch

Experience is key when it comes to qualifying tournaments and there are few boxers in Dakar more experienced than Abdelhafid Benchabla, the top-seeded heavyweight from Algeria.

The 33-year-old, who claimed his third African Games gold medal last year, will be aiming to compete at his fourth Olympic Games, having been frustratingly beaten at the quarter-final stage – just one win from a guaranteed medal – at the previous three.

There are several boxers with professional experience among the entries, ensuring there are several wildcards in the tournament outside the seeds.

Wilfred Ntsengue, 22, is already an Olympian and won a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games for Cameroon, before relocating to Montreal, where he has amassed an unbeaten record of eight bouts including winning a WBC Youth title.

In the same division, Rayton Okwiri returns to compete for Kenya having boxed in Rio four years ago, where he was convinced he was on the wrong end of a bad judges’ decision. In his six professional bouts, he was crowned African middleweight champion, a title he was stripped of after being selected for this tournament.

In the men’s featherweight division, Morocco’s Mohamed Hamout is one of the highest ranked boxers in action in Dakar, as a two-time African champion and 2016 Olympian.

Yousry Hafez will carry the hopes of Egypt, who were the last African nation to win a silver medal in boxing, at super-heavyweight, where he is seeded No 1 after winning gold at the African Games last year. Egypt also have a big chance at light-heavyweight, where 2016 Olympian Abdelrahman Oraby Abdelgawad is in fine form following a gold medal in the African Games.

Merven Clair represents the best hope of Mauritius. The 26-year-old, who boxed in Rio, claimed the welterweight gold at the African Games.

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Top female boxers

Since the 2016 Games in Rio, the number of men's weight divisions has been reduced by two, making a total of eight, while two have been added for women, making a total of five.

No African woman has won an Olympic medal, although the continent will be better represented than ever before at Tokyo 2020.

Morocco have high hopes of Khadija El-Mardi in the women’s middleweight division. The 29-year-old, an Olympian in 2016, had a stellar 2019, winning gold at the African Games and a bronze medal at the World Championships.

There is a lot of confidence also around Algeria’s Roumaysa Boualam, at flyweight, who is ranked in the world’s top ten after success at the African Games last year.

The draw for the tournament takes place at 3.30pm on Wednesday 19 February and the first session of boxing starts at 4pm on Thursday (both times UTC). Finals and box-offs take place on Friday and Saturday, 28 and 29 February.

events

20 Feb - 15 Mar 2020

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Qualification Tournaments

Dakar, Amman, London, Buenos Aires, Paris