THE dates for the European Olympic qualification event have now been set. The tournament will pick up from where it left off when it was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic last year. It will be held from June 4-8 in Paris.

After restructuring the process, the Boxing Task Force, that administers the Olympic tournament, said it selected Paris “as part of its initial commitment to organise its events in the host countries of recent or upcoming Olympic Games, and because of the opportunity to continue to benefit from its already established relationship with the Local Organising Committee, which was originally entrusted to organise the now-cancelled Final World Qualifier.”

Instead of a final world qualifier, those remaining Olympic quota places will be allocated according to the Task Force’s rankings, in each weight division and each continental region.

Smaller tournaments on the European circuit remain important of the next few months. These will be vital when it comes to preparing boxers for the qualifier and ultimately the Tokyo Games.

Some Olympic hopefuls were in action at the Strandja tournament that finished in Sofia on February 27. Ireland’s Brendan Irvine and Aofie O’Rourke both came away with bronze medals. Irvine reached the semi-final with a unanimous points win over Kosovo’s Bashkim Bajoku, the flyweight’s first bout since qualifying for Tokyo last year, before having to withdraw with an injury (a swelling over the eye due to a headclash).

O’Rourke stopped Bulgaria’s Georgieva Dobromira before beating Turkey’s Sennur Demir on a split decision. America’s Naomi Graham, the eventual gold medallist, eliminated her with a unanimous points win.

Michaela Walsh and Kellie Harrington were both left fuming after decisions went to Russian opponents. Walsh, Ireland’s featherweight, racked up two wins over Morocco’s Widad Bertal and Uzbekistan’s Yodgoroy Mirzaeva only for Russia’s Karina Tazabekova to be handed a contentious split decision over her in the semi-final.

At 60kgs Harrington unanimously outscored Poland’s Aneta Rygielska, only for Russia’s Nune Asatrian to be handed a split decision win over her in the next round.

That division ended in an interesting final when Brazil’s Beatriz Ferreira beat Finland’s Mira Potkonen with a powerful display.

A clutch of host nation boxers won gold medals, including featherweight Javier Ibanes, a Cuban now boxing for Bulgaria.

Fearsome Ukrainian Oleksandr Khyzhniak was tuning up ahead of June’s European qualifier, stopping two of his opponents in Sofia, unanimously outscoring Turkey’s Serhat Guler before winning his final by walkover. His countryman Tsotne Rogava made an impression at super-heavyweight but could not overcome Bakhodir Jalolov in the final. The Uzbek has amassed 7-0 (7) pro record but is also qualified for the Olympics. He is eligible to box in Tokyo but needs competitive bouts in tournaments like this to prepare himself for the Games. On this kind of form he will be a contender in Japan.