Damien Hooper listens to advice from his corner during a bout against Juan Carlos Carrillo of Colombia.
Damien Hooper listens to advice from his corner during a bout against Juan Carlos Carrillo of Colombia.

Hooper back in the ring for London

OLYMPIC medal hope Damien Hooper has buried the hatchet with Boxing Australia and will fly to Northern Ireland at the end of the week.

Hooper, regarded as Australia's best chance of a medal since Grahame 'Spike' Cheney took silver in Seoul in 1988, was sent packing from the team's camp at the Australia Institute of Sport in Canberra last month.

At the time, Boxing Australia CEO Kable Kellaway released a statement which read, "Damien has been advised he will be able to rejoin the Australian team's preparation camp when he understands and undertakes to adopt the reasonable standards of good manners and respect which a member of a team should extend to his teammates, his coaches and other people with whom he comes into contact".

Hooper has now rejoined the camp as the team prepares to relocate to Northern Ireland to complete its lead-up to the Games.

The Dalby fighter was an automatic qualifier for London when he made the quarter-finals at last year's world championships in Azerbaijan.

He was beaten in that bout by eventual champion Julio de la Cruz from Cuba.

The 20-year-old has been the best-performed of the Australian contingent that will compete in London, having beaten Murat Kuralbayev from Kazakhstan in the final of the Liventsev Memorial in Belarus last month.

That followed another victory in the 'Algirdas Socikas' tournament in Lithuania earlier in May where he defeated Donatas Macanskas of Lithuania in the final of the 81kg division.

Despite his impressive form, Allan Nicolson from Boxing Queensland said it was too hard to predict whether Hooper would win a medal in London.

"Damien is certainly the one who carries the most expectation. He's a very good boxer, there's no doubt about that," Nicolson said. "Nothing would make me happier than seeing him go through and win ... but it's a very big ask.

"There are no seedings so you could draw the Olympic champion in round one."

Nicolson said like Hooper, fellow Queenslander Jeff Horne was "a tricky customer" who could also do well.

Horne was beaten in the semi-final of the 64kg class in Belarus after winning a silver medal in Lithuania.
"Both the boys have got a bit of flair so hopefully they'll do well," Nicolson said. "Queensland has actually got four of the 10 boys in the Olympic team, it's just a pity we can't get some more funding.

"Queensland Boxing has taken them to tournaments in places like Russia, Poland, Ireland and Scotland just to try and get the boys some good competition.

"Our boxing has improved dramatically in the past few years, but we don't get anywhere the funding sports like swimming do."

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