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Australian boxers secure 10-man Olympic team

Roar Guru
25th March, 2012
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Australia’s boxers pulled off a stunning coup at the last-chance Oceania Olympic qualifier on Sunday, winning all nine finals to claim nine tickets to the London Games.

Taking in light heavyweight Damian Hooper, who booked his London spot last year, it means Australia will field a fighter in all 10 men’s weight divisions at the Olympics.

Elated assistant coach Mick Daly wasn’t sure if it had ever happened before.

“I think it’s the first time Australia has been in every weight division – it’s a clean knockout,” he said.

“It’s just a credit to the boys – their attitude, their dedication.

“It’s been a really good preparation and they’ve all worked hard. That’s what’s been on show today.”

The knockout blow was delivered at Canberra’s AIS on Sunday – the last roll of the dice for Australia’s boxing hopefuls.

Even head coach Don Abnett admitted earlier in the week that six out of nine final victories was the most likely outcome.

Fight-of-the-day honours went to super heavyweight boxer Johan Linde, who had the toughest match-up against reigning Oceania champion Uaine Fa from Tonga in their gold medal bout.

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But barely 30 seconds into the fight, Linde threw a powerful straight right hand that caught Fa flush on the chin and knocked him to the canvas.

He got to his feet, but the referee declared the bout over.

Daly, who has worked closely with Linde, said it was arguably the performance of the day.

“If you have a look at my Facebook last night, my prediction was nine from nine, but credit to our big fella,” said Daly.

“The other guy was a lot better boxer.

“We planned to show him our intentions right from the start and the first (punch) didn’t quite get him, but the next one did.”

There was also big raps for 16-year-old Jai Opetaia who booked his spot on the plane with a hard-fought points victory over New Zealand’s David Light in the heavyweight category.

The junior world gold medallist, who celebrates his birthday on June 30, will be the youngest Australian boxer to compete at an Olympics.

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“Youngest ever – it’s a crazy feeling,” Opetaia said.

“This has been my dream ever since I can remember. I grew up running around the gym.

“People always asked me, like, ‘do you have a Plan B?’

“But there’s never been a plan, this is my plan.”

Daly hinted medals might be too far out of reach for Opetaia in London, but noted that the NSW central coast teenager will be just 20 by the time the Rio de Janeiro Olympics come around.

“He’s got all the talent under the sun – probably one of the most gifted kids I’ve seen.

“And 16 for a heavyweight is really young.”

The 10-strong Australian boxing squad depart in a week for a six-week tour that takes in China, Thailand, Serbia and Lithuania ahead of the Games which start in late July.

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Daly said the team expect to go into London on a high.

“They’re only kids, but in saying that his team has got some rough diamonds that have every chance – anything can happen.”

Australia’s female boxing hopefuls will compete at the world championships in May hoping to join the 10 men in London for the first Olympics to include women’s boxing.