Casablanca awaits start of African show

Lausanne, Switzerland, 27 April 2012 – The AIBA African Olympic Qualifying Event which begins in Casablanca, Morocco, on 28 April will bring together the cream of the crop of African boxers as they battle it out for the remaining 48 quota places available for the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Two Algerians have already qualified to the biggest show on Earth with Abdelhafid Benchebla, the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Individual Light Heavyweight Champion, and Mohamed Amine Oudahi, 10th place finish in the Bantamweight division at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011. The rest of the African line-up for the Olympic Games still needs to be decided in Casablanca.

Several African boxers were invited to take part in the AIBA Road to London Program to further hone their skills with some of the best coaches around. Many of those are expected to make a big impact in Morocco’s largest city as they seek to achieve their Olympic dreams.

203 athletes from 35 nations are expected to take part in this AIBA African Olympic Qualifying Event, their last opportunity to get to the London 2012 Olympic Games. Joining the host nation, only Cameroon, Egypt and Kenya will be presenting the maximum number of ten athletes while DR Congo, Ghana, South Africa, Tanzania and Tunisia will send nine to compete.

Host nation Morocco secured ten Olympic quotas for the Beijing Games and their target is to reach that same number Casablanca in the front of their expectant home crowd. Strong WSB fighter Mohamed Arjaoui, veteran Aboubaker Seddik Lbida, Beijing Olympian Mehdi Khalsi and former AIBA Junior World Champion Mehdi Ouatine will be the leaders in Morocco’s experienced squad.

The Algeria team contains eight boxers who will also be aiming to achieve the maximum number of ten Olympic quotas in Casablanca. Two have already bagged their places while the other team members stand excellent chances. Beijing Olympic Games quarter-finalist Abdelkader Chadi and AIBA World Championships quarter-finalist Chouaib Bouloudinat are the team’s big weapons.

The Tunisia head coach expects at least five Olympic quotas from their nine-member squad, which will be one the strongest in this Olympic era. Yahya El-Mekacheri, Hassan Chagtemi, All Africa Games winner Ahmed Mejri, African Youth Champion Bilel M’Hamdi are great hopes for the North African country, which is traditionally one of the best African boxing nations.

Egypt also has a great tradition in boxing and its team will be lead in Casablanca by three-time Olympian veteran Mohamed Abdelmaghoud Hikal, while their brightest prospect 19-year-old AIBA Youth World Championships bronze medallist Hesham Yahya Mahmoud Abdelaal will also be involved. Middleweight Hikal was the last African boxer to win a medal in an AIBA World Boxing Championships.

Seychelles and Mauritius trained and sparred together last month and once again this alliance could produce great performances. Mauritius claimed three gold medals at both the All Africa Games and African Championships. Their team has in its ranks, 25-year-old All Africa Games winner Richarno Colin, who was unbeaten last year, Beijing Olympic Games bronze medallist veteran Bruno Julie, All Africa Games Middleweight winner star Kennedy St. Pierre and African Champions Ludovic Gilbert Bactora and Jean John Colin.

In the last two years, Cameroon has reached another level and the hard work they put in resulted in two gold medals in the last All Africa Games in Maputo. Light Flyweight Willy Thomas Essomba and Welterweight Joseph Mulema both participated in the last Beijing Olympic Games and they will be targeting qualification to London in Morocco.

The Black Bombers, nickname of the Ghana national boxing team, have been preparing for the AIBA African Olympic Qualifying Event in a special training camp in Baku, Azerbaijan. They hope that this boot camp will give them the best chances claiming Olympic licenses. The average age of the team is one of the youngest in Africa but they can expect great performance from UK-based Lerrone Richards, Sulemanu Tetteh and WSB boxer Maxwell Amponsah.

The Namibia squad, which contains six boxers, prepared for the event in Cuba. Former Commonwealth Games winner Japhet Uutoni and Beijing Olympian Desmond Mujandjae Kasuto are the biggest hopes for the nation.

Only five boxers are involved with the Nigeria team but amongst them four reached a medal at the 2011 All Africa Games in Maputo so the quality is guaranteed. The AIBA African Olympic Qualifying Event promises to be quite a spectacle as the boxers of the continent seek the wins that will take them to the London 2012 Olympic Games.

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