The first 26 boxers to qualify for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics will be decided on Wednesday when the semi-finals take place in the first Olympic qualifying tournament in Dakar, Senegal, on the west coast of Africa.
The Africa tournament is the first of five events to decide who boxes for gold this summer. It will be followed by Acia/Oceania tournament in Amman, Jordan, next week, with the European qualifier taking place in London and the Americas tournament in Buenos Aires. A final world qualifier will be held in Paris in May.
All boxers who make the finals in Dakar have qualified for Tokyo 2020. There is also an extra place on offer in six of the men’s division and one female weight category, which will be decided by a box-off between the two losing semi-finalists.
So far Algeria and Morocco have been the most successful nations in Dakar, with eight boxers qualified for the semi-finals each, while Uganda and Ghana have five, and the Democratic Republic of Congo and Kenya four.
The standard has generally been very high, helped by a number of professionals who have been allowed to try to compete in the Olympics.
Olympic qualification was first opened up to professionals in 2016, but only a few boxers tried to qualify, with three making it to Rio de Janeiro, none of whom made an impact.
One of the most impressive boxers in Dakar has been 22-year-old middleweight Wilfred Seyi, of Cameroon, who boxed in Rio four years ago as a teenager and as since turned professional after relocating to Montreal, where he is unbeaten in eight bouts.
In the other side of the middleweight draw, Uganda’s David SSemujju looks good, as do the three remaining young Zambian boxers, Patrick Chinyemba, Everisto Mulenga and Stephen Zimba, a 19-year-old who uncorked a huge right hand to stop Mervin Clair, the No 1 welterweight seed, in the quarter-finals in Tuesday.
Another boxer who has looked good in Kenyan featherweight Nick Okoth, a soldier, who is just a few days short of his 37th birthday, who is aiming to returning to the Olympics 12 years after last appearance in Beijing.
Algerian heavyweight Abdelhafid Benchabla is aiming for his fourth Olympics, having been beaten each previous time in the quarter-finals, one win away from a guaranteed medal.
Africa has only won one Olympic medal in the past two Olympics combined and last won a gold medal in 1996.