The African Olympic Qualification tournament has now reached the semi-final stage ©AIBA

Algeria’s Reda Benbaziz survived a scare at the International Boxing Association (AIBA) African Olympic Qualification Event to advance to the semi-final stage of the under 60 kilogram lightweight competition in Yaoundé.

The top seed faced the challenge of Kenya’s Nicholas Okongo Okoth in the quarter-finals at the Paposy boxing venue, with the contest proving a tightly fought affair which would eventually be decided by the judges’ scorecards.

One official awarded the contest to the Kenyan fighter 29-28, while the other judges gave Benbaziz the victory by the same scoreline.

The split decision verdict moved Benbaziz to the verge of an Olympic berth, as a win in the semi-finals would assure him of a place at Rio 2016.

He is one of seven Algerian fighters who could book their places at the Games, including under 69kg welterweight Zohir Kedache, who sealed a split decision victory over Tunisia’s Thamer Marzouk.

The Seychelles’ Andrique Allisop continued his run in the men’s under 60kg lightweight event, with the African Cup of Nations winner defeating Ethiopia’s Biru Mesfin unanimously.

One of the major shocks came in the 75kg middleweight division as the top seed Zibani Chikanda was surprisingly beaten, after the Congo’s Anauel Ngamissengue achieved a technical knock-out of the Botswana boxer.

All Africa Games winner Wilfried Dieudonne Seyi Ntsengue continued to delight his home crowd, with the Cameroonian eliminating Tunisia’s London 2012 Olympian Yahia Elmekachari in the middleweight event via a split decision verdict.

Both the African and American Boxing Confederations have signed up to the HeadsUp! programme
Both the African and American Boxing Confederations have signed up to the HeadsUp! programme ©AIBA

The shock in the American Olympic Qualification Event in Buenos Aires came in the 46 to 49kg light flyweight division, with top seed Carlos Eduardo Quipo Pilataxi of Ecuador falling to defeat.

He was beaten via a split decision verdict by Guatemala’s Eddie Valenzuela Barillas to see his challenge come to an end in the quarter-finals.

With both the African and American qualifiers in full swing,  AIBA revealed that both confederations have signed the HeadsUp! programme charter.

The programme focuses on training boxers to maintain a heads-up stance to help prevent concussions and cuts, while coaches are also provided with training to help change their boxers’ behaviour of leading with the head that came with the psychological protection of guards.

“Working closely with our confederations to help implement initiatives like HeadsUp! and continue to develop our sport is central to AIBA’s role as boxing’s governing body,” said AIBA President C K Wu.

“We have the best boxers in Africa and Americas competing for places at the 2016 Olympics, the first Games since 1984 not to feature headguards.

“The roll out of HeadsUp! in these two continents demonstrate our purpose to propose a real pathway for all boxers and coaches from grass roots level to elite competition on and off the ring.”