Semi-final day is always special in sport, and it was no exception today in the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships, as the finalists were secured for tomorrow’s gold medal matches.
All of the semi-final athletes secured their minimum target in Sofia, which was to qualify for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics, and the contests today decided the brightness of the medals.
After all was said and done, 26 boxers advanced to the gold medal bouts.
Poland’s Elzbieta Wojcik had one of the best performances in the semi-finals, while Kazakhstan, Croatia and United States had a great day in the men’s part of the championships.
Bout of the day
Elzbieta Wojcik had a close bout against US teenage star and London 2012 Olympic Champion Claressa Shields in the final of the AIBA Women’s Youth World Championships in Albena last September, which set her up as a favourite for gold in Sofia.
Her semi-final opponent here was Chinese Taipei’s current AIBA Junior World Champion Chen Nien Chin.
Wojcik was too strong for her rival, and the 18-year-old Middleweight class (75 kg) boxer showed just why she has only lost two contests in her entire career.
Her punches were hard and sharp, and she deserved her victory.
She goes on to fight for the gold against Australia’s Brandenburg Youth Cup winner Caitlin Parker, who eliminated US youngster Martha Fabela in her semi-final.
Team of the day
Kazakhstan had four semi-finalists in the men’s part of the championships, and all of them advanced to their respective finals.
The Central Asian boxing power topped the team rankings in the last edition of the AIBA World Boxing Championships, and they could do the same in the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships as well.
Their Light Flyweight class (49 kg) boxer Shalkar Aikynbay opened their perfect semi-finals, defeating AIBA Team’s Shyam Kumar Kakara.
Kazakhstan’s current ASBC Asian Youth Continental Champion Sultan Zaurbek was their second fighter through, and was followed by Abylaykhan Zhussupov who overwhelmed Ikboljon Kholdarov of Uzbekistan.
The fourth victory was achieved by ASBC Asian Youth Continental Champion Vadim Kazakov, who triumphed over the Norwegian Vegar Tregren due to his excellent final round in the Light Heavyweight class (81 kg).
AIBA Road to Sofia boxer of the day
Cuba’s two-time Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament winner and multiple National Games winner Javier Ibanez Diaz has not lost any contests during his international career, and he kept his unbeaten status in a narrow contest against Bulgaria’s EUBC European Junior Continental Championships silver medallist Dushko Blagovestov Mihaylov.
Ibanez controlled the opening round, and despite a fightback from the home favourite, the Cuban produced an incredible last round, which saw him advance to the gold medal bout.
Surprises of the day
The Croatian male boxers are one of the biggest sensations of the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Sofia.
They arrived to the competition with three medals contenders, and all of them were able to live up to the hype.
Multiple international tournament winner Luka Plantic defeated Ukraine’s AIBA Junior World Champion Ramil Gadzhyiev and advanced to the final.
Gadzhyiev started the fight well, but Plantic improved from then on, and the Croatian Middleweight class (75 kg) boxer eventually won the contest.
His teammates Luka Prtenjaca (69 kg) and Toni Filipi (91 kg) also continued the magic winning path of Croatia in the semi-finals.
Russia’s EUBC European Junior Continental Champion Marat Kerimkhanov met with Germany’s Peter Kadiru in the Super Heavyweight class (+91 kg), a rematch of their final in the Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament, which Kerimkhanov won narrowly.
The German boxer used his height more effectively this time around, constantly frustrating his Russian opponent.
Kadiru was the better boxer, while his opponent received three warnings in the final frame which resulted in a win for the German.
Ones to watch
Armenia’s AIBA Women’s Junior World Championships silver medallist Anush Grigoryan represents a new generation of boxers for her country, and the 17-year-old Flyweight class (51 kg) boxer dominated all three rounds against Kazakhstan’s Alua Balkibekova, and advanced to the final where she will meet AIBA Junior World Champion Irma Testa.
US teenage hope, the AIBA Women’s Junior World Championships gold medallist Jajaira Gonzalez eliminated the biggest favourite for the gold in Sweden’s AIBA Youth World Champion Agnes Alexiusson in the quarter-finals, marking her out as one to watch in the Lightweight class (60 kg).
The 17-year-old faced Ukraine’s AIBA Junior World Champion Anhelina Bondarenko in the semi-finals. The two engaged in a competitive, fiery battle which was ultimately won by the American.
Her final opponent will be Turkey’s Esra Yildiz, who triumphed over Italy’s Monica Floridia.
Uzbekistan’s AIBA Junior World Championships quarter-finalist Sulaymon Latipov provided some world class boxing in the semi-final of the Men’s Light Flyweight class (49 kg).
Latipov doesn’t turn 17 until October, and only but received the right to fight in Sofia due his Bekzodbek Tursunboyev being unable to make weight.
Latipov was too smart and quick for Azerbaijan’s Rufat Huseynov in their semi-final contest as he made his way to the final.
Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament winner, and defending Youth National Champion Bibert Tumenov is a new boxer in the Russian team ,but the strength of his punches are one of the best in the world at the Light Welterweight class (64 kg).
He met with Italy’s surprise sensation Vincenzo Arecchia in the semi-finals.
The Russian boxer had more variety in his punches, and attacked from the first seconds.
His domination of the contest saw him move onto the final, where he will face Ukraine’s two-time EUBC European Junior Continental Champion Viktor Petrov in a dream clash.
Uzbekistan’s ASBC Asian Youth Continental Champion Kozimbek Mardonov is the youngest boxer among the semi-finalists, as he won’t turn 17 until December.
The young Uzbek hope met with Russia’s Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament winner Dmitrii Nesterov, who eliminated Australia’s AIBA Junior World Champion Satali Tevi Fuimaono in the quarter-finals.
Both southpaw fighters, the two produced top quality boxing in Sofia.
Mardonov dominated the first part of their contest using his lethal uppercuts, but Nesterov was able to turn back their hectic semi-final battle, ultimately winning over his younger opponent.
Stat of the day
A record number of sixteen nations were able to get at least one final place in the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships in Sofia.
Kazakhstan leads this ranking with four finalists, with the United States of America and Croatia having three finalists.
Cuba, Russia and Uzbekistan each have two boxers remaining for the final competition day.
Quote of the day
“I feel great here in the AIBA Youth World Championships, and I believed before the event that I could win the gold medal in Sofia. I am very happy that I could beat one of my main rivals in the semi-final, so my target is not so far away,” said Poland’s Elzbieta Wojcik after her victory over Chinese Taipei’s Chen Nien Chin.
The highlight of the competition is the gold medal bouts, and they occur tomorrow in the final competition day of the AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships, with thirteen gold medal bouts and five further box-offs taking place.