The European Olympic Boxing Qualifying Tournament in London has officially been launched today ©GB Boxing

The European Olympic Boxing Qualifying Tournament in London has been officially launched today, with upto 450 men and women from as many as 50 countries competing at the Copper Box Arena at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Billed as the biggest Olympic boxing event to be held in England since the London 2012 Olympic Games, the European Olympic Qualifying Tournament takes place from March 14 to 24 and has 77 places for Tokyo 2020 at stake.

The competition will feature eight men's weight categories and five for women.

Fifty qualification places are available for the men and 27 for women.

Eight men and five women from the GB Boxing squad will be selected to compete from London, which is the first opportunity for the boxers to qualify for Tokyo 2020.

The second and last chance will be at the final World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Paris from May 13 to 24.

The European Olympic Qualifying Tournament is an International Olympic Committee (IOC) event and supported by funding from the National Lottery and the Mayor of London.

It will be delivered in association with a range of partners, including UK Sport, GB Boxing, the British Olympic Association and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The IOC decision to stage the European Olympic Qualifying Tournament in London was welcomed by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

"London is the sporting capital of the world and it's fantastic we're hosting yet another world-class event," he said.

"Londoners and visitors alike can look forward to a thrilling spectacle at the Olympic Park in March, as Europe's best boxers compete for a place in the Tokyo 2020 Games."

BXR London, the capital's finest boxing gym, hosted today's launch event, which featured two members of the GB Boxing squad with high hopes of selection - light heavyweight Ben Whittaker and heavyweight Cheavon Clarke.

Whittaker enjoyed the best year of his career in 2019, winning a bronze medal at the International Boxing Association (AIBA) World Championships in Russian city Yekaterinburg and silver at the European Games in Belarus' capital Minsk.

"Last year was huge for me as I felt I really proved myself as a top international boxer, so it has given me a lot of confidence coming into the qualifying campaign," he said.

"Having the first event in London is a bonus. 

"I remember watching the boxing at London 2012 on television and the atmosphere was just electric. 

"If we can get anywhere close to that it will be absolutely amazing."

Clarke, who lives on the border of London and Kent, added: "I have grown up and spent a lot of my life in London so to have the Olympic qualifier here is fantastic.

"As part of the GB Boxing squad we usually compete abroad, so to have such an important event on home soil is fantastic. 

"All of the boxers in the squad are pleased about it and really excited at the prospect of competing in London."

GB Boxing performance director Rob McCracken, who oversaw the five medals for Great Britain at London 2012 and three at Rio 2016, is hopeful home support will spur on the 13 British fighters.

"Our boxers had a very good year in 2019, when the men and women won 16 medals at four major competitions, so they are coming into 2020 in a good run of form," he said.

"The qualifier will be very tough, as a lot of the European nations are strong in boxing, so it is good that it is taking place in this country."

The IOC boxing task force confirmed the location of the five Olympic boxing qualifiers last August.

The task force was established after the IOC suspended the recognition of AIBA in June, following a six-month investigation into the world governing body amid concerns regarding its governance, finances, refereeing and judging.