Europe’s biggest AOB competition, the prestigious Strandja Memorial Tournament, takes place in Sofia, Bulgaria from 23-28 February, with a record number of boxers registered to take part. Talented European, Asian and American boxers will be using the event as part of their final preparations for the forthcoming regional Olympic Qualification Tournaments, while the female boxers also have the AIBA Women’s World Championships in May firmly on their radars.

The tournament began as a national competition back in 1950 but has been expanded by the Bulgarian Boxing Federation who have raised its profile in recent years. Home nation boxers have continued to find success at the new format, with Denitsa Eliseeva defeating Katie Taylor in 2011, while a year later Stefan Ivanov beat Cuba’s London Olympic Games Champion Robeisy Ramirez on his way to gold.

This year, 40 nations from across the globe will send teams to Sofia, with 302 boxers chasing the ten men’s and five women’s titles on offer. Bulgaria’s defending European Confederation Champion Daniel Asenov is among the 187 elite male boxers to register.

“I won the European Confederation Boxing Championships in Samokov but this is a new year and an important one due the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. I feel I have trained well and hopefully the new methods which we added to my preparation with my coach will be enough to get at least a place in the final,” said Bulgaria’s 18-year-old flyweight hope Asenov.

Switzerland’s top light heavyweight Uke Smajli will also be hoping to secure a place in Rio later in the year.

“I am looking forward to the Strandja memorial. I am physically ready and this year my trainer and I have worked hard on improving my movement. I expect to take home a medal from Sofia, but the most important thing is to improve and be ready for the Rio qualification event,” said Switzerland’s young sensation Smajli.

Among the 115 women registered are China’s three-time AIBA Women’s World Champion and 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Ren Cancan and Russia’s two-time AIBA Women’s World Champion and fellow silver medallist in London, Sofya Ochigava.

Next to the top European countries, the Asian continent’s top boxing nations such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, China, Vietnam, Korea, Mongolia, Tajikistan and Chinese Taipei are all registered to the Strandja Memorial Tournament. The Ecuador team will hope to repeat their success at the tournament in 2014, while Algeria and Tunisia represent the African continent.

Defending champions in the Strandja Memorial Tournament

 Women’s 51 kg: Stoyka Petrova, Bulgaria

 Women’s 54 kg: Stanimira Petrova, Bulgaria

 Women’s 60 kg: Mira Potkonen, Finland

 Women’s 64 kg: Agnes Alexiusson, Sweden

 Women’s 75 kg: Li Qian, China

 Men’s 49 kg: Abdulla Kuchkarov, Uzbekistan

 Men’s 52 kg: Shakhobiddin Zoirov, Uzbekistan

 Men’s 56 kg: Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Uzbekistan

 Men’s 60 kg: Elvin Isayev, Azerbaijan

 Men’s 64 kg: Lorenzo Sotomayor, Azerbaijan

 Men’s 69 kg: Simeon Chamov, Bulgaria

 Men’s 75 kg: Bektemir Melikuziev, Uzbekistan

 Men’s 81 kg: Radoslav Pantaleev, Bulgaria

 Men’s 91 kg: Rustam Tulaganov, Uzbekistan

 Men’s +91 kg: Kamshybek Konkabayev, Kazakhstan