Damien Hooper.
Damien Hooper. Mark Dadswellgetty IMAGES

Teenage pugilist to take on the world

DALBY'S Damien Hooper heads off to the World Amateur Boxing Championships next week hoping to book his spot for London 2012.

Hooper leaves for the three-week tournament in Azerbaijan on Tuesday aiming to secure a top-10 finish to ensure his place on the Australian boxing team for next year's Olympics.

While the Olympics remain his goal, Hooper, 19, is confident of securing a podium finish in his second appearance at the senior world titles.

Hooper first fought at the championships as a 17-year-old in Italy, securing a top-16 finish despite his tender years.

Since then, Hooper has gone on to win gold at the Youth Olympic Games and fought at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi last year.

And his form this year since stepping up a class into the 81kg division has been outstanding, moving quickly up the standings to become the number four ranked fighter in the world.

With more than 70 boxers expected to contest the 81kg division, Hooper knows he has a few tough weeks ahead of him at the knockout tournament - but he can't wait.

"My goal is to get in the top 10," Hooper said. "But I feel pretty confident for a medal.

"When I went (to the senior championships) when I was 17, I got the furthest of the Australians. Now I've already been to that level I feel confident."

Hooper expects his main rivals in Azerbaijan to be top-ranked Irish boxer Joe Ward and second-ranked Russian Egor Mekhontsev.

"I've faced a few of those guys and I'm pretty confident at 81kg," Hooper said.

Following the world championships, Hooper heads to London for an Olympic trial in November.



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