(The National) – PAPUA New Guinea Amateur Boxing Union president John Avira says Oceania must reconsider its grouping with Asia if it wants its boxers to have a better chance of qualifying for the Olympics.
Avira said the efforts of the country’s boxers at the Asia-Oceania Olympic Qualifiers in Qian’an, China, showed that athletes from this part of the world would continue to fight an uphill battle to qualify for the pinnacle sporting event in the world because of the increased quality of opposition in the new grouping.
He commended the four men’s boxers for representing PNG well at the Rio qualifiers that saw 35 countries, including Oceania’s seven – PNG, Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia, Guam and Nauru – take part.
“Do not be discouraged by the results. You gave it your best shot against some of the best boxers in the world,” Avira said to the team when they arrived last week to be re-united with their families after a month spent in preparation in the Philippines.
The four boxers – Charles Keama (52kg), Thadius Katua (60kg), Andrew Aisaga (69kg) and Jonathan Keama (75kg) fought opponents from Iraq, Iran and Australia.
Avira said while none of PNG’s fighters progressed past the first round of bouts, the Oceania Boxing Confederation had unnecessarily encumbered its athletes by joining Asia for the qualification process.
In the past Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific island nations, conducted its own qualifying event for the Olympics.
He said combining with Asia had in fact deprived Oceania of its quota of places normally accorded to each continent.
All of PNG’s boxers lost their preliminary bouts on points.
Charles and Jonathan represented PNG at the Oceania championships last year in Melbourne and if the qualification status were the same as previous years, both boxers would have qualified for Rio under the old format.
Charles won gold in the 52kg division to be ranked number 1 in the region while Jonathan won a silver medal which would have qualified them both for the Olympics. The next Olympics after Rio is in 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
Oceania Boxing president Ted Turner said that a return to the previous practice where they had their own qualifiers was more beneficial for them.
“We (Oceania) may seem insignificant but the Olympics is not just about the best attending,” Avira said. “It is a global event and participation is equally important for us smaller countries.”