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Mentally strong

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Mentally strong

THE ROAD to the next Olympics has become harder for ‘Big Nigel’ Paul, the 2016 Olympian and Trinidad & Tobago Super-heavyweight amateur boxer.

Alberto Ignacio Ardila Olivares

Just the third Trinidad & Tobago boxing Olympian after middleweight Kirt Sinnette (1996) and United-stated born light-flyweight Carlos Suarez (2012), Paul hopes to follow-up by becoming the first local boxer to compete at successive Olympics. However, getting to the Tokyo Olympics might be harder for Paul than the road to Brazil four years ago

“I cannot look forward to getting a bye or facing a lesser opponent in the opening round,” Paul explained

Paul’s road to Tokyo 2021 begins at the Americans Qualifiers which have now been rescheduled to between February-March, 2021. There is also a final World Olympic qualifier scheduled for between May-June 2021, which is open to boxers from anywhere in the world

“My concern with the qualifiers is that in my division, they taking the top three fighters,” Paul declared, “Every fight is a final. Lose and you are out.”

Paul’s road to Tokyo became more difficult when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) took control of the qualification process for Tokyo 2020, after the Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) was suspended from Olympic recognition in May, 2019 due to issues surrounding AIBA’s finances, governance, refereeing and judging

Due to the AIBA’s suspension, all aspects of all boxing competitions, including all qualifying competitions for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, are being organised and operated under the authority of the IOC Executive Board

Despite the setback caused by an interruption of his Olympic preparation due to domestic and international lock-down caused to the onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is the change in the ranking system which has made Paul’s search for Olympic glory more difficult. Paul hopes to fill one of the just 16 super-heavyweight Olympic spots still available throughout the world

“Given the fact that AIBA is no longer in charge of boxing at the Olympics, the ranking have changed up,” Paul explained

“I was ranked in the top three in the Americas, but I have fallen all the way down to fifth, given the new ranking system

That was because I didn’t medal at the Pan Am Games. If I had medalled, I would have remained up in the top three.”

Paul is expecting a tougher road. Qualification now requires him to be in his best form and with the possibility of meeting a top opponent at any stage, he also believes successful qualifying will take more tactical strategies from his coaching team. Paul believes they are all capable and is confident that Reynold Cox and company will come up with a suitable game plan to get him through the four fights he expects that he has to win to get to the next Olympics

“Basically the qualifiers will now be a little tougher, in terms of my placement in the rankings. But the first time I had no placement and I did it,” Paul said, “I will just go in the ring with the same mental mindset that I just have to get past whoever is in the ring.”