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Canadian boxer Sara Kali advances at Olympic boxing qualifier in Bangkok

BANGKOK — Canadian Sara Kali won a 5-0 decision over Cuban Yakelin Estornel to advance at a last-ditch Olympic boxing qualifier Wednesday.

BANGKOK — Canadian Sara Kali won a 5-0 decision over Cuban Yakelin Estornel to advance at a last-ditch Olympic boxing qualifier Wednesday.

The 32-year-old from Montreal will face Cape Verde's Ivanusa (Nancy) Moreira next in round-of-eight action in the women's 66-kilogram class at Haumark Stadium

"For my first ice-breaker fight, I'm satisfied with my performance," Kali said. "I came here to win cleanly, no matter how I handled it, and that's what I managed to prove to the judges in this first fight.”

While Cuba has a rich history of amateur boxing success, it did not lift restrictions around women’s boxing until 2022, 10 years after the sport was added to the Olympic program. Estornel, a former elite wrestler, was the lone Cuban woman competing in Bangkok.

Canadians Terris Smith and Doni Foreman were both beaten Wednesday.

Smith lost a 5-0 decision to decorated British fighter Amy (Baby Canelo) Boardhurst in a round-of-16 bout in the women's 60-kilogram class.

"She landed big shots and pushed (Broadhurst) back at times," said Canada coach Samir (Sammy) El Mais. "In the end, it was all experience that won the fight ... We are super-proud of Terris. She has a lot of heart, grit, and she went toe-to-toe until the end."

Broadhurst, named Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sports Woman of the Year in 2022 after winning the world and European championship and Commonwealth Games gold, advances to the quarterfinals of the women's 60-kilogram division.

Passed over by the Irish Athletic Boxing Association, Broadhurst elected to switch allegiance and try to qualify for the Olympics in British colours. She holds two passports thanks to her English-born father.

Smith, a 31-year-old from Victoria, had defeated Bulgaria's Aslahan Mehmedova in her opening bout Monday.

Foreman was at the wrong end of a 5-0 score against Spain's Ayoub El Aissaoui in a round-of-16 bout in the men's 92-plus kilogram division.

Canada assistant coach Tariq Abdulhraman called it "a courageous and honourable performance."

Nine Canadians entered the Bangkok tournament trying to fight their way into this summer's Olympic field. Four are left.

The qualifier, which runs through Monday, will determine the final 51 quota places (23 for women and 28 for men) for the Paris Games.

On Thursday, Montreal's Marie Al-Ahmadieh, 19, takes on Dutch-born Irish fighter Josefien Betist in a round-of-16 bout in the women's 57-kilogram division.

Mckenzie Wright, a 33-year-old from St. Davids, Ont., meets Argentina's Aldana Florencia Lopez on Friday in a round-of-16 bout in the women's 50-kilogram division. The Argentine won a bronze medal at the 2022 IBA Women's World Boxing Championships.

Scarlett Delgado, 28-year-old bantamweight from Brampton, Ont., faces Enkhjargal Munguntsetseg in a round-of-eight bout Saturday. The 25-year-old Mongolian was a bronze medallist at the 2023 IBA Women's World Boxing Championships.

Canadians Junior Petanqui (71 kilograms) and Keven Beausejour (80 kilograms) have already lost and Victor Tremblay exited via walkover after failing to make weight for his first fight in the 57-kilogram bracket.

Canada has already qualified two boxers for Paris, which features 13 weight classes — seven for men and six for women.

Middleweight Tammara Thibeault (75 kilograms) and welterweight Wyatt Sanford (63.5 kilograms) booked their ticket by virtue of gold-medal performances at last year's Pan American Games. Both were members of Canada's five-boxer team for the Tokyo Olympics and Thibeault was a world champion in 2022.

Competitors need to crack the top four in Bangkok to punch their ticket to Paris. That measuring stick can change, however, given host France is guaranteed a maximum of six quota places (three for women and three for men) so a country can claim a spot in a weight class even if it doesn't qualify a fighter.

There will be no title bouts at the Bangkok event, with action in each weight class coming to a halt when the final Olympic berths are determined.

Olympic boxing qualification comes in the form of several steps.

The first were five continental qualifiers, with the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile, covering the Americas. A first World Qualification Tournament was then held in Busto Arzizio, Italy, from Feb. 29 to March 12.

Competitors essentially had to finish in the top four in Italy to secure Olympic qualification, although that figure varied in some weight classes. Canada had two athletes finish in the top eight — Delgado and super-heavyweight Alexis Barriere, who subsequently opted to focus on a pro career.

Canada has won 17 Olympic boxing medals (three gold, seven silver and seven bronze), but none since 1996 when heavyweight David Defiagbon won silver in Atlanta.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 29, 2024.

The Canadian Press