NIGEL PAUL is likely to be the only Trinidad and Tobago boxer at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
But he has an anxious three-week wait before confirmation if he is to be selected from among the Americas region’s super-heavyweights (division) for the July 23-August 8 summer games.
Paul was due to compete at the Americas boxing qualifiers for the rescheduled Tokyo Games. However, that has been cancelled arising out of concerns that travel restrictions — in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic — would prevent some athletes reaching Buenos Aires, Argentina, to compete at the May 10 to 16 qualifiers.
As a consequence, boxers will earn selection for the Tokyo Olympics based on international rankings. T&T has just two amateurs in the world rankings, Paul and the recuperating Michael Alexander — who would have automatically qualified under the new criteria. However, Alexander is slowly recovering from serious injuries he sustained in a vehicular accident earlier this year.
“We only had two boxers in the rankings. That was Michael Alexander and Nigel Paul,” said national boxing coach Reynold Cox. “Michael would have qualified for sure. He is ranked third in the region. But he is injured, so he would not be able to go.
Cox added: “Michael is on the road to recovery. He is doing his physiotherapy. As it pertains to the sport, we don’t know if he will reach that level where he will be able to compete.”
Paul was ranked seventh among super-heavyweights in the Americas prior to the qualifiers being cancelled, so he would have had to qualify for a spot. He is ranked 35th overall in the world and the Olympic tournament is usually restricted to 32 fighters (per division).
Given the rate of Covid-19 infections in Argentina, Cox felt it might not have been fair to ask athletes to go there, and he reasoned that ratings was the next best option to determine who makes the cut.
“Now that they are going to the rankings, boxers will be picked from each weight division based on a quota system. When that is done, we will know if Paul will be selected,” informed Cox, adding, “We are very optimistic that he will qualify, but we have to wait until we know what is the quota they will give us (the Americas region).”