The Grand Prix in Usti nad Labem is one of Europe’s most prestigious boxing competitions, a fact displayed by legendary boxing nations including Russia, Kazakhstan, Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Armenia and Georgia all sending squads to the Czech Republic.
1968 was the year of the the first edition of this tournament, and the event is now held in June, as opposed to its formerly traditional date in March.
Despite the experience on show in The Grand Prix, it was the new and exciting faces of European men’s boxing that impressed the watching crowds the most.
Athlete of the tournament
Ireland’s new national team member George Bates lost to his local rival David Oliver Joyce in the semi-final of their National Championships, but the talented young boxer was still selected to take part in the Grand Prix in Usti nad Labem, where he demonstrated his wonderful rhythm and strength which enabled him to beat some very tough opponents.
Bates defeated Russia’s Strandja Memorial Tournament winner Sergey Krasnitskiy in the semi-final, and Georgia’s EUBC European Youth Continental Championships silver medallist Otar Eranosyan in the gold medal bout by unanimous decision.
The Irish Lightweight class (60 kg) boxer won the gold medal in the Czech event in spite of his lack of international experience, and will look to use this tournament as a launching pad for a successful 2014.
Team of the tournament
Four of the Georgian squad advanced to the finals of the Grand Prix in Usti nad Labem, where they eventually celebrated two gold medals.
The head coach of Georgia is eager to establish his teams best line-ups before the busy qualification year of 2015, and his boxers who competed in the Czech Republic raised their chances of staying in the team due to their successes.
Georgia’s new Welterweight class (69 kg) team member Gela Abashidze is a relatively unknown boxer at international level, but he used his mystique to his advantage, as he beat Armenia’s Armen Darchinyan in the final.
Their Heavyweight class (91 kg) boxer Levan Guledani is a more experienced, and he defeated Slovakia’s newly crowned National Champion Erik Tlkanec, to claim Georgia’s second gold medal in Usti nad Labem.
EUBC European Youth Continental Championships silver medallist 21-year-old Otar Eranosyan, and Gocha Badurashvili both secured silver medals following narrow losses in their respective finals.
Another new national team member Nikoloz Sekhniashvili defeated a tough Russian boxer in the quarter-finals which saw him claim a bronze medal in Usti nad Labem, capping off a phenomenal tournament for the Georgians as they won five medals in total.
Surprise of the tournament
Slovakia’s new national team member Matus Strnisko eliminated Ireland’s EUBC European Continental Championships silver medallist and London 2012 Olympian Darren O’Neill in the semi-finals of the Light Heavyweight class (81 kg) in Usti nad Labem, which was the biggest shock of the tournament.
Although the young Slovakian lost in the final to Italy’s Simone Fiori, he will take a lot of confidence from his performances against some very good boxers in the tournament.
One to watch in the future
Netherlands’ new sensation Enrico Le Cruz was a quarter-finalist at the 2011 EUBC European Youth Continental Championships in Dublin.
Since then his skills have developed even further, and he was majestic in the Grand Prix in Usti nad Labem.
The exciting Dutch star defeated Czech Republic’s Erik Huliev, Armenia’s AIBA Youth World Championships competitor Henrik Mokoyan and Russia’s Artem Khotenov in the final.
The 21-year-old boxer wants to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games and judging by his success here, qualification could come easy for him.
Stat/fact of the tournament
The average age of the winners in Usti nad Labem was a mere 22.3 years, which is less than in previous years.
Czech Republic, the host nation of the tournament did not have a representative in any of the Grand Prix finals, but their top boxer, and London 2012 Olympian Zdenek Chladek missed the competition.
Gold medal winners at the Grand Prix Usti nad Labem
56 kg: Enrico Le Cruz, Netherlands
60 kg: George Bates, Ireland
64 kg: Michael Nevin, Ireland
69 kg: Gela Abashidze, Georgia
75 kg: Arman Hovhikyan, Armenia
81 kg: Simone Fiori, Italy
91 kg: Levan Guledani, Georgia
+91 kg: Gasan Gimbatov, Russia