Two Canadian men have earned the right to box at this summer’s London Olympics.
Of the ten Canadian national champions who travelled to the continental Olympic qualifiers in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, only Simon Kean or Trois-Rivières, Que. and Custio Clayton of Halifax, N.S. secured Olympic quota spots at the AIBA continental qualifier. Both fighters had to have a little help from their opponents to get in.
Super heavyweight Simon Kean was knocked out in Friday’s semi-finals by Ecuador’s Ytalo Antonio Perea Castillo and had to wait until Saturday’s final to see if he had secured one of the three remaining spots in his class, 91+ kg. Since Castillo earned gold in the even, Kean therefore earned the third and final spot.
While one of Canada’s most promising contenders in the event, 23-year-old Kean is also a comeback story. Not only has he recently recovered from a shoulder surgery, but he nearly lost his leg two years ago in a bad all-terrain vehicle accident. He narrowly avoided an amputation, and had to recover in a wheelchair for four months, then walk with a cane for two more. Kean is known for his power and is a true super heavyweight at 6-foot-5, 215 pounds.
Clayton also had luck from the opponent to eliminated him from the tournament in the quarterfinals, Mike Ribeiro of Brazil. Since Ribeiro went on to win gold, Clayton secured the fifth and final quota spot left in the 69 Kg class. The 24-year-old Canadian is viewed as the most talented man on the team.
Heavyweight Samir El-Mais of Windsor, Ont. narrowly missed qualifying in the 91 Kg weight class, losing out in Friday’s semifinals, but he wasn’t as lucky as Kean, and his opponent lost in the gold medal match. So he therefore missed out on the final berth, and at age 32, his final Olympic shot.
The Canadian team had a stellar start a in Rio, with nine of the 10 winning their first-round matches. But the team fell off down the stretch. Men’s boxing is one of the toughest Olympic events for which to qualify, since so many nations across the world field teams and try to qualify. The Americas is a very tough zone from which to emerge.
Canada qualified just one boxer for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, in Adam Trupish from Windsor, Ont. Boxing Canada believed it would bolster that number of qualifiers in 2012, and improve upon it again greatly over the next two Olympic cycles.
Earlier on Saturday at the Women’s World Boxing Championships in Qinhuangdao, China, there were two stunning disappointments for Canada. Mandy Bujold of Kitchener, Ont. and Sandra Bizier of Stoneham, Que. were both upset in their opening matches, and therefore failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Women must finish in the top eight at the Worlds to qualify. Bujold was a gold medalist at the 2011 Pan Am Games in the 51 Kg class, while Bizier earned bronze there in the 60 Kg. Mary Spencer of Windsor, Ont. has yet to compete in her first match at the worlds and still needs to qualify. She is the only Canadian woman left.