June 13th, 2024

Canadian boxers looks to punch their ticket to Paris Olympics at Bangkok qualifier

By Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press on May 21, 2024.

Canada's Wyatt Sanford celebrates after beating Mexico's Miguel Martinez in the men's 63.5kg gold medal bout, at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, Friday, Oct. 27, 2023. Bantamweight Scarlett Delgado leads a team of nine Canadian boxers trying to fight their way into this summer's Paris Olympic field at a last-ditch World Qualification Tournament in Bangkok. Canada has already qualified two boxers for Paris, which features 13 weight classes — seven for men and six for women. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Martin Mejia

Bantamweight Scarlett Delgado leads a team of nine Canadian boxers trying to fight their way into this summer’s Paris Olympic field at a last-ditch world qualification tournament in Bangkok.

Canada has already qualified two boxers for Paris, which features 13 weight classes – seven for men and six for women.

Middleweight Tammara Thibeault (75 kilograms) and welterweight Wyatt Sanford (63.5 kilograms) secured their Olympic berths via gold-medal performances at year’s Pan American Games. Both were members of Canada’s five-boxer team for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Bangkok qualifier, which starts Friday and runs through June 3 at the Indoor Stadium Huamark, will determine the final 51 quota places (23 for women and 28 for men) for the Paris Games.

The number of Olympic boxing divisions for men has gone down by one while the women’s competition has added one since Tokyo. But there will parity in total numbers of athletes with 124 men and 124 women.

Olympic boxing qualification comes in the form of several steps.

The first were five continental qualifiers, with the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, covering the Americas. A first World Qualification Tournament was then held in Busto Arzizio, Italy, from Feb. 29 to March 12.

Competitors essentially had to finish in the top four in Italy to secure Olympic qualification, although that figure varied in some weight classes. Canada had two athletes finish in the top eight – Delgado and super-heavyweight Alexis Barriere, who subsequently opted to focus on a pro career.

Just making the Olympic field is an accomplishment, given the sport’s popularity around the world and the fact each country can have no more than one competitor in a weight class. More than 75 countries took part in boxing at the Tokyo Games.

Competitors will again need to crack the top four in Bangkok to punch their ticket to Paris. That measuring stick can change, however, given host France is guaranteed a maximum of six quota places (three for women and three for men) so can claim a spot in a weight class even if it doesn’t qualify a fighter.

That means some weight classes may require a top-three finish for Olympic qualification. It could also become top five if an already qualified competitor is injured or suspended.

Christopher Lindsay, Boxing Canada’s executive director, says Canada would be “very happy” to qualify one or two more boxers.

Delgado, a 28-year-old from Brampton, Ont., is seen as a leading contender in the 54-kilogram weight class. She was top-eight at the last qualifier, with the top four removed from the equation this time because they have already secured their place in Paris.

“Her ability to perform in high-pressure situations is something that we have come to rely on in the past and has gone well for her,” said Lindsay.

Delgado, who competed in freestyle wrestling before boxing, has unique style that can be difficult for opponents to decipher, he added.

But logic sometimes goes out the window depending on the draw.

A good number of the Canadian boxers in Bangkok are probably aiming more at the 2028 Games in Los Angeles.

There will be no title bouts at the qualifying tournament, with action in each weight class coming to a half when the final Olympic berths are determined.

The current crop of Canadian Olympic hopefuls have been in camp in Bangkok since May 8 preparing for the qualifier.

Thibeault and Sanford were also at the camp but have returned home, with fellow fighter Keoma-Ali Al-Ahmadieh and coach Vincent Auclair, to continue their preparations. Al-Ahmadieh is a younger fighter who is in the same weight class as Sanford and is serving as a training partner.

Samir El Mais is head coach of the Canadian team in Bangkok. A heavyweight gold medallist at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, El Mais cornered Thibeault at the Tokyo Olympics, where she finished fifth, and at the 2022 World Championships, where she won gold.

Canada has won 17 Olympic boxing medals (three gold, seven silver and seven bronze), but none since 1996 when heavyweight David Defiagbon won silver in Atlanta.

Other Canadian Olympic medallists include super-heavyweight Lennox Lewis (gold in 1998, Seoul) and light-middleweight Sean O’Sullivan and heavyweight Willie deWit (both silver in 1984, Los Angeles).

Bantamweight Horace (Lefty) Gwynne (1932, Los Angeles) and welterweight Albert Schneider (1920, Antwerp) were the other Olympic champions.

The Paris boxing competition runs July 27 to Aug. 1 in the North Paris Arena and Roland-Garros Stadium.

The Olympic qualifying events were organized under the authority of the Paris 2024 Boxing Unit (PBU), an ad-hoc group created by the International Olympic Committee’s executive board. The PBU was tasked with overseeing qualifying and running the boxing competition at the games following the IOC’s suspension and the subsequent withdrawal of recognition of the International Boxing Association (IBA).

Canadians Competing at Bangkok

Women

Mckenzie Wright (50 kilograms), Scarlett Delgado (54), Marie Al-Ahmadieh (57), Terris Smith (60), Sara Kali (66).

Men

Victor Tremblay (57 kilograms), Junior Petanqui (71), Keven Beausejour (80), Doni Foreman (92-plus).

Follow @NeilMDavidson on X platform, formerly known as Twitter

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 21, 2024.

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