The boxing tournament of the Baku 2015 European Games start its first competition day tomorrow in Azerbaijan.
A total of 220 men and 66 women will compete in Baku across 15 weight classes, and 30 quotas for the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 will be granted to the top three boxers in each men’s category.
With just one day to go until the in-ring action begins, we have previewed every weight category in the competition to determine who are the favourites, and who may cause some surprise results.
Women’s Flyweight class (51 kg)
Britain’s London 2012 Olympic Games gold medallist Nicola Adams returned to action last month in the Boxam Tournament last month, and she defeated Stoyka Petrova en route to her deserved gold medal.
To achieve a second successive gold in Baku, she may once again have to defeat her Bulgarian rival, while Russia’s EUBC European Women’s Continental Championships silver medallist Sayana Sagatayeva, Italy’s AIBA Women’s World Championships silver medallist Terry Gordini, Germany’s Ornella Wahner and France’s Wassila Lkhadiri are further medal candidates in the Olympic weight category.
Women’s Bantamweight class (54 kg)
Russia’s Elena Saveleva defeated Italy’s defending EUBC European Women’s Continental Champion Marzia Davide in the final of the Boxam Tournament last month, which has given her strong gold medal expectations in Baku.
In a weight class full of talent, Bulgaria’s AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships Stanimira Petrova gold medalist is another contender, and her style could prove beneficial against the tough field.
Azerbaijan’s Anna Alimardanova, Poland’s EUBC European Women’s Continental Championships silver medallist Ewelina Wicherska, Ireland’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist Michaela Walsh and Turkey’s AIBA Women’s World Championships bronze medallist Ayse Tas also have the potential to perform well, while AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships silver medallist Lisa Whiteside is unable to compete due to injury.
Women’s Lightweight class (60 kg)
Ireland’s London 2012 Olympic Games winner Katie Taylor has been in unbeatable form over the past few years, and the multi-time World Champion is hunting for her first European Games title.
Her rivals for gold include Russia’s AIBA Women’s World Champion Zinaida Dobrynina, while Azerbaijan’s AIBA Women’s World Championships silver medallist Yana Alekseevna will be competing on home soil.
Finland’s Mira Potkonen has lost only one bout in 2015, and France’s Estelle Mossely is another strong athlete.
Italy’s Romina Marenda, Spain’s Jennifer Miranda and Sweden’s former AIBA Women’s Junior World Champion Ida Lundblad have all developed well this year, which makes them dangerous opponents in Baku.
Women’s Light Welterweight class (64 kg)
Azerbaijan’s defending EUBC European Women’s Continental Champion 27-year-old Elena Vystropova has moved down a category to box in her home event, where her main rival will be Russia’s current AIBA Women’s World Champion Anastasia Beliakova.
Sweden’s AIBA Women’s Youth World Champion Agnes Alexiusson defeated the Russian boxer in January, while Britain’s AIBA Women’s World Championships silver medallist Sandy Ryan has also travelled with gold medal expectations.
Poland’s Kinga Siwa and Czech Republic’s Martina Schmoranzova both achieved bronze medals in the EUBC European Women’s Continental Championships, and Hungary’s two-time European Union Champion Bianka Nagy is always dangerous at high level competitions.
Women’s Middleweight class (75 kg)
Two dynamic boxers will be the main gold medal contenders, with Netherlands’ Nouchka Fontijn and Britain’s former AIBA Women’s World Champion Savannah Marshall each keen to claim the inaugural gold.
Germany’s EUBC European Women’s Continental Championships silver medallist Sarah Scheurich, Sweden’s former AIBA Women’s World Champion veteran Anna Laurell, Hungary’s two-time AIBA Women’s World Championships bronze medallist Timea Nagy and Ukraine’s Katerina Shambir are other competitive rivals in the heaviest women’s weight class.
Men’s Light Flyweight class (49 kg)
Azerbaijan’s Salman Alizada has not been able to replicate his best form over the past few years, but will attempt to turn back time on home soil.
Russia’s Bator Sagaluyev is one of the strongest boxers in the weight class due to his pressure based style, with other medal candidates including Ukraine’s EUBC European Youth Continental Champion Dmytro Zamotayev, England’s Bocskai Memorial Tournament winner Harvey Horn and Ireland’s Brendan Irvine.
Men’s Flyweight class (52 kg)
An experienced line-up competes at Flyweight, headlined by Russia’s former EUBC European Youth Continental Champion Vasiliy Vetkin, Azerbaijan’s own Elvin Mamishzada, Italy’s Beijing 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist Vincenzo Picardi and Spain’s two-time Olympian Jose Kelvin de la Nieve.
Youth Olympians such as Britain’s AIBA Youth World Championships silver medallist Muhammad Ali and Bulgaria’s EUBC European Junior Continental Champion Daniel Asenov could be new sensations in Baku, while Moldova’s EU Champion Alexandr Riscan, France’s Elie Konki, Germany’s Hamza Touba and Armenia’s Narek Abgaryan are further medal contenders.
Men’s Bantamweight class (56 kg)
Azerbaijan’s reigning AIBA World Champion Javid Chalabiyev has enjoyed recent success in AIBA Pro Boxing (APB), and returns to this excellent AOB event with home success on his mind.
Moldova’s Beijing 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist Veaceslav Gojan, Russia’s Bakhtovar Nazirov and Turkey’s Selcuk Eker could all be strong opponents for Chalabiyev, while Belarus’ Dzmitry Asanau, Ireland’s Kurt Walker and Hungary’s Mark Szoros are the aspiring talents in the weight class.
Men’s Lightweight class (60 kg)
Russia’s National Champion Konstantin Bogomazov has received the right to fight for his country in a major boxing competition for the very first time, but he faces tough competition from Azerbaijan’s 2010 Youth Olympic Games silver medallist Elvin Isayev.
Belarus’ EUBC European Continental Championships silver medallist Vazgen Safaryants, Hungary’s Miklos Varga and France’s Sofiane Oumiha are other contenders, with plenty of young hopes competing including Lithuania’s Edgaras Skurdelis, Ireland’s Sean McComb, Britain’s Luke McCormack, Turkey’s Yasin Yilmaz, Georgia’s Otar Eranosyan and Albania’s Rexhildo Zeneli.
Men’s Light Welterweight class (64 kg)
A great battle is expected between Italy’s London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Vincenzo Mangiacapre, and Azerbaijan’s Lorenzo Sotomayor.
The Italian boxer is fresh off a superb season in the World Series of Boxing (WSB), while Sotomayor is a natural talent with plenty of confidence.
Aside from the big two, France’s Hassan Amzile is unbeaten this year, and Britain’s WSB star Samuel Maxwell is in good recent form.
Ukraine’s AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships silver medallist Viktor Petrov and Turkey’s Adem Furkan Avci are the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympians who have received the right to box in this elite competition.
Men’s Welterweight class (69 kg)
Three boxers are expected to dominate at Welterweight, beginning with strong Russian athlete Aleksandr Besputin.
Azerbaijan’s Tamerlan Abdullayev won the test event in Baku so has ample experience of the surroundings, while France’s Souleymane Cissokho has been impressive over the past few months.
Other candidates for medals include Hungary’s Balazs Bacskai, Ireland’s Adam Nolan, Ukraine’s new sensation Yaroslav Samofalov, Moldova’s Vasilii Belous and Turkish veteran Onder Sipal.
Men’s Middleweight class (75 kg)
France’s Christian M’Billi Assomo is one of the most exciting boxing prospects in the world after winning every tournament he has entered over the past 18 months, and he subsequently maintained his undefeated streak in the World Series of Boxing.
A star-studded line-up will compete against the French star in Baku, with Britain’s AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Anthony Fowler, Russia’s Maksim Koptyakov, Ireland’s EU Championships silver medallist Michael O’Reilly and Hungary’s London 2012 Olympic Games quarter-finalist Zoltan Harcsa all hopeful of snapping the unbeaten record which M’Billi Assomo currently enjoys.
Men’s Light Heavyweight class (81 kg)
Italy’s Valentino Manfredonia has already qualified to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games after his heroic exploits in WSB, but following his gold at the European Union Championships he wants to earn a further AOB title in Baku.
Ukraine’s AIBA Youth World Champion Oleksandr Khyzniak, Netherlands’ EUBC European Continental Championships silver medallist Peter Mullenberg and Russia’s strong WSB boxer Pavel Silyagin represent his main rivals, and all have the capabilities to put together a winning run in Azerbaijan.
Men’s Heavyweight class (91 kg)
Azerbaijan’s AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Teymur Mammadov, Italy’s promising Fabio Turchi and Irish veteran Darren O’Neill are the main favourites to succeed at Heavyweight.
The the larger the weight class, the more chances of surprises however, with knockouts able to occur at every moment of a contest.
Therefore, talents such as Ukraine’s Gevorg Manukyan, Russia’s Sadam Magomedov and Croatia’s Mediterranean Games silver medallist Josip Bepo Filipi will also believe they can go all the way in the European Games.
Men’s Super-Heavyweight class (+91 kg)
The Super Heavyweight division is perhaps the strongest weight class in the competition, and certainly the most difficult to predict a winner from.
Azerbaijan’s two-time AIBA World Champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov carries unbelievable power, as does Britain’s Commonwealth Games winner Joseph Joyce who finished second in the World Series of Boxing rankings this season.
Russia’s two-time National Champion 22-year-old Gasan Gimbatov has plenty of potential, while Italy’s Guido Vianello and France’s Tony Yoka represent a perfect mix of APB and WSB fighters competing for glory in Baku.
(Lead photo courtesy of Baku 2015 European Games)