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Top talents invade Asiad boxing

In the women’s competition, 20 Paris berths can be won in Hangzhou.

HANGZHOU, China (AFP) — Flyweight world champion Hasanboy Dusmatov will be one of the favorites for gold when boxing gets under way at the Asian Games on Sunday, with qualification for the Paris Olympics also up for grabs.

The 30-year-old Uzbek was Olympic champion in 2016 and in Hangzhou will be seeking the one gold medal absent from his collection in the 51kg division.

His first bout will be on Monday, with gold and silver medalists in the seven men’s weight divisions all guaranteed a place at next summer’s Paris Olympics.

In the women’s competition, 20 Paris berths can be won in Hangzhou.

Dusmatov was stunned in the 2018 Asian Games final by Amit Panghal in a massive upset, but the Indian is a notable absentee this time.

Another hoping to turn 2018 silver into gold is middleweight (71kg) world champion Aslanbek Shymbergenov from Kazakhstan.

Shiva Thapa, a winner at the 2013 Asian Championships, will lead the Indian squad in Panghal’s absence.

In the women’s competition,  light flyweight (50kg) Thi Tam Nguyen has recovered from a torn knee ligament suffered at the Southeast Asian Games earlier this year and will lead a nine-strong Vietnam team.

The world championships silver medalist has already secured her place at Paris and will become the first Vietnamese boxer to take part in two consecutive Olympics.

She could again come up against India’s multiple world champion Zareen Nikhat, who beat the Vietnamese by unanimous decision to lift the world title in New Delhi earlier this year.

Nikhat also won gold in the 2022 world championships in Istanbul in the 52kg category.

Oh Yeon-ji from South Korea returns to defend her Asian Games lightweight (60kg) gold medal.

Organizers will be desperate to avoid the chaos of five years ago in Jakarta when the Asian Games boxing competition was marred by judging protests and controversy.

Two North Korean boxing coaches were thrown out of the Asiad after refusing to leave the ring when their boxer lost a split decision.

And there were ugly scenes when an Iraqi fighter lost another close bout and a fan tried to storm the ring in protest, egged on by the boxer’s cornermen.

After that, and a catalogue of controversies at the 2016 Rio Olympics, the International Olympic Committee in 2019 suspended the International Boxing Association from running the sport.

Earlier this year, AIBA were kicked out of the Olympic movement, with the new IOC-backed World Boxing taking responsibility for administering Olympic amateur boxing after a successful Tokyo Games in 2021.

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