Another day of tremendous action in the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships saw a number of high level bouts. The amount of technically sound and exciting boxing on show in Sofia is a great advert for the future of this great sport.
Many heroes were made on Day 6, but two in particular stood out. Bulgaria’s home favourite Blagoy Naydenov, and Kazakhstan’s Abylaykhan Zhussupov both eliminated their top rivals at the Armeec Arena.
The championships are really heating up now, with every boxer left in believing they can win gold.
Bout of the day
Kazakhstan’s AIBA Junior World Champion, the 17-year-old Abylaykhan Zhussupov has won all of his international tournaments, and was named the Best Asian Junior Boxer of the Year in 2013.
Zhussupov was born in Abay, a famed fighting city where Kazakhstan’s London 2012 Champion Serik Sapiyev also started his career.
The Central Asian star met with Russia’s Tamerlan Batdiyev on Day 6, who was perhaps the best boxer at the 2011 EUBC European Junior Continental Championships.
Although the two fighters had never met before, many were touting this as an early final in Sofia.
Zhussupov used excellent tactics against the Russian boxer, carefully awaiting and negating the best attacks from Batdiyev, and his own punches reached the target well in the opening round.
The Kazakh boxer has a dominant style, and that continued in the second round as well. Batdiyev needed a miracle third round to change the course of the fight, but Zhussupov kept his advantage in the last three minutes, and eliminated his main rival in the Lightweight class (60 kg).
Team of the day
The Great Britain youth athletes have had a great tournament so far, and experienced another excellent day in Sofia, as all of the British boxers on show won their bouts on Day 6.
Great Britain’s Light Flyweight class (49 kg) boxer Lee McGregor is one of Scotland’s best prospects, and in triumphing over France’s Brandenburg Youth Cup bronze medallist Anthony Gimenez, he became the first of the British team to win today.
Dalton Smith was a quarter-finalist in the AIBA Junior World Championships in Kiev, losing a narrow contest to the eventual winner Abylaykhan Zhussupov.
Smith is the current English and British Youth Champion, and controlled his bout against Turkmenistan’s Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup silver medallist Togrulbeg Pazzyyev.
The Brit was dominant from the first seconds, and his win sees him matched up Hungary’s tough Richard Konnyu in the next round in Sofia.
British Youth Champion John Docherty is another exciting prospect, and he turned in a career best performance against former EUBC European Schoolboys Champion John Joyce, resulting in an unexpected split decision victory over his tough rival.
Britain’s fourth winner on Day 6 was the EUBC European Junior Continental Championships silver medallist Viddal Riley, who used his strength to beat Ukraine’s Yaroslav Datsko.
Riley has similar physical skills to the London 2012 Champion Anthony Joshua, and dominated his Ukrainian opponent.
AIBA Road to Sofia boxer of the day
Albania’s EUBC European Junior Continental Championships bronze medallist Jurgen Uldedaj has achieved several national titles in different age groups, and received the right to raise his boxing knowledge in the AIBA Road to Sofia Program.
The 17-year-old Light Heavyweight class (81 kg) boxer started his competition against Latvia’s Deniss Savdons, who had more experience at international level.
Despite the disparity in experience, Uldedaj proved his class from the first seconds, and his counter-attacking style was successful in beating his Latvian rival at the Armeec Arena.
Surprise of the day
Italy’s top youth athlete Francesco Maietta joined the youth age group last year, and claimed a valuable bronze medal at the 2013 EUBC European Youth Continental Championships in Rotterda.
The Italian boxer eliminated China’s Nie Zelong in the first preliminary round, but he could not repeat his performance in his next bout against Romania’s Arsen Mustafa.
The Romanian Lightweight class (60 kg) boxer has not attended many international events in recent time, but did win a medal at the AIBA Junior World Championships in Astana three years ago.
The southpaw trains in the city of Constanta, and demonstrated his strength in the opening round.
Maietta improved in the final round, but it was not enough to turn back the contest. Mustafa therefore marches into the last 16 in Sofia, which caused real surprise on Day 6.
Ones to watch
Uzbekistan’s ASBC Asian Youth Continental Champion Bektemir Melikuziev is the strong favourite in the Welterweight class (69 kg).
The Uzbek boxer celebrated his 18th birthday just before the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships, and was quicker, faster and smarter in the ring than Guatemala’s AIBA Road to Sofia Program member Carlos Daniel Tobar.
Georgia’s Giorgi Kharabadze failed to medal at the 2013 AIBA Junior World Championships in Kiev but he shook off that disappointment with a great performance at the EUBC European Junior Continental Championships last November.
The 17-year-old Welterweight class (69 kg) boxer lost to Sweden’s Oliver Flodin at the Danas Pozniakas Youth Memorial Tournament in Lithuania last month, and they met once again in Sofia.
Kharabadze shook off the bad memories from their first meeting, and tinkered with his tactics which resulted in a successful result against the strong Swedish boxer, and a move to the next round.
Many believe that Bulgaria’s best youth boxer is the EUBC European Junior Champion Blagoy Naydenov, and the Bulgarian is a favourite for gold in Sofia.
The 18-year-old Light Heavyweight class (81 kg) boxer met with Russia’s new sensation, the Youth National Champion Islam Tekeyev, who also claimed the gold at the Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament in Russia.
The contest was one of the best of the day. Tekeyev tried to control the first round using his strong jabs, but Naydenov was able to adopt the rhythm of the bout, and turned up the heat as the fight progressed.
Naydenov ultimately won the contest, and the gold medal definitely looks on for the Bulgarian brawler.
Stat of the day
Great Britain’s great performance on Day 6 means that all of their ten boxers are still in the competition. Uzbekistan has nine boxers remaining, while Kazakhstan and Ukraine both have eight.
Azerbaijan, Hungary and Russia have got seven athletes left in the competition.
Quote of the day
“I was aware of the fact that Russia’s Islam Tekeyev is one of my main rivals in the AIBA Youth World Championships, therefore I have tried to mobilize all of my energies in my first bout in Sofia. I was very excited, but now the happiest man of the world after my triumph in home country,” said Bulgaria’s best hope Blagoy Naydenov after his great victory against Russia’s Islam Tekeyev.
Easter Sunday brings the longest competition day of the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Sofia, where eighty contests are scheduled for Day 7. All of the male weight classes will be in action, and the target of the boxers will be to reach the Top 8, nearing a place in the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics.