Aussie boxers in final fight for London

By Steve Jancetic,

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    Australian Olympic boxing coach Don Abnett wants a heavy workload in London and believes he has enough talent to secure seven fighters a ticket to the 2012 Games.

    Australia’s best male fighters will enter the last chance saloon in Canberra this week, with the Oceania Olympic qualifying event starting on Wednesday to determine Games places.

    Only one fighter – light middleweight Damian Hooper – is already on the plane, courtesy of his top-eight finish at last year’s world championships.

    Abnett is hopeful of securing another six places from the nine berths still up for grabs this week.

    “I’d like to see six get through – there’s a couple of doubtful ones,” Abnett told AAP.

    “I’m really happy with where our preparation is at – I couldn’t be happier so far.

    “No injuries or signs of over-training … we had a big week of sparring last week, we brought a lot of boys in from interstate and a few trips up to Sydney sparring with professionals, all went really well.”

    All the winners from last month’s national championships have spent the past five weeks in Canberra preparing for the make-or-break tournament.

    Abnett nominated Luke Jackson, who captained the boxing team at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, along with Jeff Horne and welterweight Cameron Hammond as the standouts of the training camp, and expected all three to win their divisions.

    Flyweight Jackson Woods faces the easiest path to London with just one challenger in his division – Papua New Guinea’s Kauko Raka.

    The same can’t be said for super heavyweight Johan Linde, who is expected to contest the most closely fought division.

    Reigning Oceania champion Junior Fa from Tonga and New Zealand’s Joseph Parker – a World Series of Boxing star – are both well credentialled and have split four bouts they have had between themselves.

    “Our boy’s well prepared – he’s inexperienced but he’s been training well,” Abnett said of Linde.

    “He’s had a pretty good bloke (assistant coach Mick Daly) pushing him … he’s pressing the right buttons to get him firing on all eight cylinders.”

    One area of concern for Abnett is in the heavyweight division, with Jai Opetaia having had a less than ideal build-up.

    Opetaia, who doesn’t turn 17 until June 30, would be the youngest boxer at the London Games should he qualify.

    But he only returned to Canberra on Monday afternoon after spending nearly two weeks back with his family following the death of a relative.

    Abnett said Opetaia had the talent – having won the gold medal at last year’s junior world championships – but was concerned about his lack of time in the ring.

    “It’s been a bit of a disappointment with Jai … it’s not the ideal preparation,” Abnett said.

    The draw for the competition will be conducted on Wednesday.

    © AAP 2018

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