Easter Sunday served up a feast of great boxing action in the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships, and Sofia is now set for the latter stages of the tournament.

The preliminary rounds are now over, and today saw many boxers advancing to the quarter-finals, and one step closer to qualification for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics.

In a day of great joy for many different nations, it was the Croatian team who were celebrating the most. Their team won all of their contests, a highlight of the longest competition day of the championships.

Bout of the day
Cuba’s top favourite for the gold medal at the Bantamweight class (56 kg) is Javier Ibanez Diaz, a two-time winner of Europe’s strongest youth competition the Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament, and a winner in all of his national level events in Cuba.

Ibanez also claimed the gold medal at the Khayrutdinov Youth Memorial Tournament, further proving his reputation as a gold medal contender in Sofia.

The 18-year-old boxer fought for a place in the quarter-finals against the US Youth National Champion Carlos Balderas, who came into the contest in great form having needed only eighteen seconds to win his first bout in the competition.

Balderas threatened early again in his much anticipated clash with the Cuban, but Ibanez adapted as a champion does, and went on to control the second and the final frames, ensuring victory, and a step closer to winning the biggest tournament of his career.

Team of the day
Croatia had three boxers in action in the third preliminary round of the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Sofia, and all three them advanced to the quarter-finals of the event.

EUBC European Junior Continental Championships bronze medallist Luka Prtenjaca started Croatia’s winning path on Day 7 as he narrowly eliminated Kazakhstan’s AIBA Junior World Champion Rakhat Marzhikpayev in an incredible bout.

The final verdict of their Welterweight class (69 kg) contest was a split decision win for Prtenjaca, who is having the best tournament of his life in Sofia.

His teammate Luka Plantic has won his last eight international contests, with expectations high for the Croatian prior to the start of the tournament.

Plantic is just 17, but is one of the most experienced at international level in Croatia’s squad. The in-form youngster topped Hungary’s younger Bence Papi in a friendly encounter last month, and also won their rematch in Sofia by unanimous decision.

Kazakhstan’s Temirlan Kabiyev was a gold medallist at the last edition of the ASBC Asian Youth Continental Championships, but his opponent in Sofia was Toni Filipi, one of Europe’s hidden treasures of the Heavyweight class (91 kg).

The Croatian boxer utilised excellent jabs in the opening round, and in spite of Kabiyev’s efforts the Croatian youngster joined his compatriots in victory.

Filipi’s victory means Croatia vs Kazakhstan finished 2-0 on Day 7.

AIBA Road to Sofia boxers of the day
Moldova’s AIBA Junior World Championships silver medallist, and EUBC European Junior Champion Vladislav Tugui was a member of the AIBA Road to Sofia Program, and fought with great motivation to advance to the quarter-finals.

Tugui has some of the best footwork in the Light Welterweight class (64 kg), and his counter-attacks were perfectly timed against Sweden’s Araik Aluje Ismail.

The Moldovan proved to be on a different level during the bout, and became the first AIBA Road to Sofia boxer to advance to the quarter-finals.

Cuba’s Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament silver medallist and three-time National Champion Yordan Alain Hernandez was also involved in the AIBA Road to Sofia Program, using it as the last part of his preparation for this tournament.

The Cuban boxer is one of the tallest boxers of the Heavyweight class (91 kg), while his opponent on Day 7 was Russia’s current Youth National Champion Andrey Shokov.

Hernandez proved more technically sound than his Russian rival, and finished the bout strongly in the final round, which helped the Cuban boxer advance to the quarter-finals.

Surprises of the day
Azerbaijan’s Rufat Huseynov acquired a silver medal at the 2013 EUBC European Junior Continental Championships, but following that triumph he could only claim a bronze medal in his countries Youth National Championships in January.

In spite of his loss in Azerbaijan, the head coach of their youth national team decided to send him to Sofia, a decision which is looking very astute.

Huseynov fought against Russia’s AIBA Junior World Championships silver medallist Svyatoslav Varankin, and surprised him in the opening round. He carried on his form throughout the bout, eliminating his taller opponent by split decision.

Belarus’ Ilyas Adzinayeu trains in the city of Soligorsk, and has been participating at international level since 2009.

He is the currently best youth boxer in Belarus, but he had to meet with Russia’s EUBC European Junior Champion Aleksei Kovylin on Day 7, himself a gold medal hopeful in the Welterweight class (69 kg).

The Belarusian southpaw shocked the Russian with his tactics and strength in the first two rounds.

Kovylin turned up the heat but in the final stanza, but it was not enough to beat the impressive Adzinayeu.

Ones to watch
Ireland’s Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament gold medallist Brendan Irvine has made a strong start to international competition in recent months following his extremely successful career at national level.

The 18-year-old Light Flyweight class (49 kg) boxer met with AIBA Team’s Agalarov Youth Cup winner Shyam Kumar Kakara, who was regarded as India’s best hope for success in Sofia.

Irvine defeated all of his Cuban rivals at the Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament in Anapa, but could not repeat his performance in Sofia.

After an equal first round, the ringside doctor was forced to stop the bout due an injury suffered by Irvine, a result which means Shyam Kumar Kakara advances in the competition to the delight of his Indian fans.

Azerbaijan’s Masud Yusifzada was a silver medallist at the 2013 EUBC European Youth Continental Championships in Rotterdam, only tasting defeat by Ireland’s Gary Cully.

Since then the Azeri boxer has gone undefeated, and eliminated his Japanese and Canadian opponents in the previous stages of the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships.

The 18-year-old Flyweight class (52 kg) boxer exhibited many efficient punches in the first two rounds against Uzbekistan’s ASBC Asian Youth Continental Championships silver medallist Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov, giving himself a strong start to the top level bout.

His Central Asian opponent found his best form in the final round, but it was not enough to turn back the bout.

Yusifzada will now meet with Bulgaria’s EUBC European Junior Continental Champion Daniel Asenov in the quarter-finals.

Sultan Zaurbek was a relatively unknown boxer until last October, but his victory in the the Zhetysu Youth Cup saw him qualify for the ASBC Asian Youth Continental Championships in Bangkok.
The Kazakh Bantamweight class (56 kg) boxer also won that event in Thailand, and has continued his winning form since then.

Zaurbek met with Russia’s Aital Diakonov on Day 7, and the prospect who celebrated his 18th birthday yesterday gifted himself with a place in the quarter-finals following his comfortable triumph over the Russian boxer.

AIBA Junior World Champion and ASBC Asian Youth Continental Champion Abylaykhan Zhussupov has had an extremely tough path to the quarter-finals.

Firstly he had to fight against the top US boxer Isidro Ochoa, and followed that win by eliminating Russia’s Tamerlan Batdiyev in Sofia.

His third opponent was Moldova’s multiple international tournament winner Dorin Bucsa, who was unbeaten in 2014.

Zhussupov was not as relaxed in this contest in comparison to his previous Sofia scraps, but his excellent second round helped him reach the quarter-finals on Day 7.

Stat of the day
Eighty male boxers are left in the tournament, all hoping to secured their qualification for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics.

Thirty six nations have at least one remaining boxer in Sofia, while 60% of the Top 8 athletes represent the European Boxing Confederation (EUBC).

Ukraine is the most successful boxing nation after the seventh competition day, as seven of their athletes advanced to the quarter-finals.

Quote of the day
“I am happy because everything is going alright with me here in the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Sofia. The tactic in today’s contest was supplied by my coaches, and it was mainly to play to my strengths. I want to learn from the best from the world and develop as a boxer,” commented Australia’s AIBA Junior World Champion Satali Tevi Fuimaono, who eliminated Welshmen British Youth Champion Sonny Lee on Day 7.

Tomorrow’s program
All bouts tomorrow will be quarter-final clashes in Sofia, involving all of the three female and ten male weight classes.

The winners of tomorrow day will be secured at least a guaranteed bronze medal in Bulgarian, and quotas to the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics which will be held in August.