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Two Irish Boxers Take A Step Closer To Rio With Sensational Victories In Baku

Two Irish Boxers Take A Step Closer To Rio With Sensational Victories In Baku
By Gavan Casey
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So grim was the past Irish sporting weekend that even our WWE wrestlers both lost. In fact, had you rewatched our Italia '90 penalty shootout with Romania on Youtube, there's every chance we would have lost that too.

The storm has now passed, however, and Irish boxing's remaining Olympic hopefuls have joined the rugby under-20s in restoring some pride to their native land with a couple of sensational performances.

Heavyweight Dean Gardiner defeated a heavy favourite in Ukrainian Viktor Vykhryst in the quarter finals of the final AOB Olympic qualifier which took place in Azerbaijan earlier today.

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'Big Breakfast' took the opening two stanzas en route to a 29-28 decision, which puts him into the semi-finals on Friday afternoon where he will face Moldova’s Alexei Zavatin. The Tipp man is now just two wins from Rio 2016, and must win the entire tournament to achieve his Olympic dream.

It will take one victory less for Portlaoise middleweight Michael O'Reilly, who booked his place in the quarter-finals with a shut-out victory over Mongolian opponent Shinebayar Narmandakh. O'Reilly - a World bronze medallist - needs only to reach the semi-finals to reach the Games, but will face an uphill battle on Thursday when he squares off with Azeri home favourite Kamran Shakhsuvarly.

Even should O'Reilly lose - or be robbed, as simply shouldn't be ruled out given the history of such decisions in Olympic qualifiers - he can still qualify for Rio if Shakhsuvarly wins the tournament outright, which again isn't out of the question.

Irish-boxing.com's Joe O'Neill reports that the 75kg class in Baku offers five Olympic slots, but with no box-offs for quarter final losers scheduled, the fifth qualification spot will likely be given to the quarter-finalist who loses to the overall tournament's eventual winner.

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Were both men to qualify, that would make nine Irish boxers heading to the Olympics, with Mayo's Ray Moylette still in with a shout at the final Olympic qualifier in Venezuela in July following rival Dean Walsh's defeat this weekend.

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