THE boxing competition began today (June 16) at the inaugural European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan. GB flyweight, Muhammad Ali got Britain off to a winning start, unanimously outpointing experienced Moldovan, Alexandr Riscan.

Ali is one of the young talents hoping to solidify a spot on the GB team. This competition is a marker on the road to Rio 2016, three qualification places are available for October’s World championships in the men’s event. The Worlds will be the next opportunity to win a place at the Olympic Games.

“Everything’s important,” said Rob McCracken, GB performance director. “We’ve got a young squad. This [competition] is good in working out who’s going to be your better boxers moving forward for those Olympic qualifiers in 2016 and which boxers could potentially qualify for the World championships, especially at the Europeans in August where there are six places at each weight. There’s three at each weight in Azerbaijan.”

“It’ll be good to see where the boxers are at,” he continued. “It gives them an opportunity to step up and show what they can do.

“You look at some more familiar names, like Joe Cordina [at 60kgs] for example who’s been out for a while with a hand injury, he’s coming back into play now. [Flyweight Jack] Bateson had a nose issue, he’s coming back, [flyweight Andrew] Selby’s back, he’s been out for a while, obviously had the disappointment of the eye injury in the first [World Series of Boxing] bout, you’ll have others coming through and challenging. This is a young squad going to the European Games but it helps us work out where we’re at with this squad at the minute and who we think could really be the main ones moving forward at the weight and that’s important to try and work that out.

“With the exception of [Antony] Fowler, [Joe] Joyce and [Sam] Maxwell, all the rest of them are inexperienced and still young and we can see what their capabilities are and their potential is moving into the process.

“Our strategy is target every single qualifier and to make them count. If we have to wait for the very last one to qualify some of the boxers then that’s what we’ll do. We’ll look to do our best at the European Games and European championships, as we always do, qualify boxers for the Worlds and hopefully push on from there into ’16, qualify boxers for the Olympic Games and that’s what it’s all about.”