The biggest boxing competition in the Czech Republic, the traditional Grand Prix in Usti nad Labem got underway today as 19 nations from four Confederations announced their participation in the tournament. It will be perfect preparation once again before the athletes travel to the various AIBA Regional Olympic Qualifying Events.
Five boxers will be seeking to defend their titles with the host nation's best athletes, AIBA Youth World Championships bronze medallist Zdenek Chladek and European Women's Championships bronze medallist Martina Schmoranzova both showcasing their skills this week.
The full Cuban Olympic squad will be competing, including three AIBA World Champions as Lazaro Alvarez, Roniel Iglesias and team captain Julio Cesar de la Cruz take to the ring. Iglesias unexpectedly lost his first contest at the Strandja Memorial Tournament in Sofia last month so will be looking to get back to winning ways before he heads to the AIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Event in Rio de Janeiro in May. AIBA World Championships silver medallist Yasnier Toledo also failed at the quarter-final stages in Sofia but is of course one of the Cubans to look out for. Teammate Arisnoide Despaigne, who replaced Beijing Olympic Games silver medallist Carlos Banteur, is one of the newcomers to the squad but has good pedigree and will be looking to make a big impact in the Czech Republic.
With so many Cubans stars travelling, it would be easy to overlook another Olympic Games silver medallist, Emilio Correa, who will be fighting in the Middleweight class. AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Jose Angel Larduet and London Olympian Erislandy Savon, who claimed the gold medal at the Strandja Memorial last month, are also present.
Russia has sent its best women to Usti nad Labem with the three Olympic weight categories on offer. European Champion Yelena Savelyeva, two-time AIBA World Champion Sofya Ochigava and current AIBA World Champion Nadezhda Torlopova will use this event as active training in preparation for the 7th AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships taking place in China this May.
England's top women will also be there at this Grand Prix with current European Champion Nicola Adams, Olympic Test Event winner Natasha Jonas and AIBA World Championships silver medallist Savannah Marshall all raring to go.
Hungary's two-time AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Gyula Kate, who has just recovered from a hand injury, will be making his competitive debut this year. The Light Welterweight boxer has been preparing for his third Olympic Games. His compatriot, two-time AIBA Women's World Champion Maria Kovacs has also travelled for a gold medal.
India's trio of London Olympians, AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Vikas Krishan Yadav, Commonwealth Games winner Manoj Kumar and Asian Championships silver medallist Jai Bhagwan Singh will all be seeking to get competitive ring time and up their levels in time for the big show this summer.
Moldova's European Champion, veteran Veaceslav Gojan and London Olympian Vasilie Belous have also got golden dreams in the Czech Republic. Netherlands have sent six competitors to Usti nad Labem, and amongst them is its top female athlete, European Championships silver medallist Nouchka Fontijn. The top Dutch boxer in the men's draw is World Military Games winner Peter Mullenberg.
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