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30th Nov 2015

Boxing world congratulates Irishman Steven Donnelly as he’s all but qualified for Rio 2016

Not 100%, but likely

Ben Kiely

Thanks to the wonderfully convoluted Olympic qualification process for boxers, Steven Donnelly has “pretty much” booked his place at Rio 2016.

The Ballymena welterweight looks set to qualify for the games following a result from the Russian boxing championships on Sunday.

Russia had qualified two boxers, Andrey Zamkovoy and Radzhab Butaev in the 69kg category. However, the rules state that each country is only allowed to bring one boxer per division to the Olympics.

Here’s where things get complicated… bear with us.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - AUGUST 02: Scott Fitzgerald (2ndL) of England poses with silver medalist Mandeep Jangra (L) of India and bronze medalists Tulani Mbenge of South Africa and Steven Donnelly of Northern Ireland during the medal ceremony for the Men's Welter (69kg) Final at SSE Hydro during day ten of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games on August 2, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

Zamkovoy defeated Butaev at the national championships which has not technically sealed his place at Rio, but it makes it more likely that Russia will choose Zamkovoy to represent them by the deadline on Friday.

According to, Zamkovoy had already qualified through AIBA Pro Boxing, while Butaev had qualified after coming second in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) last Spring, a tournament whose top two finishers are awarded Olympic qualification.

Should Russia choose Zamkovoy, Butaev’s Olympic qualification spot from the WSB will be surrendered to the next highest finisher.

Mohammad Rabii, who finished top at the WSB, also won the gold medal at the World championships in Doha which also earned him a place at the Rio Olympics, meaning his qualification spot will be handed down the line.

Donnelly finished fourth in the series, and could have finished higher had he not been forced to concede a walk over in one of his bouts due to a visa mix-up. He actually finished level on points with the third placed Parviz Baghirov, but the Azerbaijani pugilist was awarded third place due to his super round difference.

So, if Butaev is out of the running and with Rabii qualifying through other means, Donnelly and Baghirov will receive their qualification spots.

DELHI, INDIA - OCTOBER 05: Luke Woods (r) of Australia in action during his 10-0 victory against Steven Donnelly (l) of Northern Ireland in the Light Welter 64kg category at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium during day two of the Delhi 2010 Commonwealth Games on October 5, 2010 in Delhi, India. (Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images)

Apologies if your brain has turned to mush after that, but at least you can wrap your head around the fact that Team Ireland already have three boxers who are definitely going to Rio, Michael Conlan, Paddy Barnes and Joe Ward.

Although, Donnelly hasn’t officially qualified as of yet, the reaction on social media is that it’s only a matter of time.