The Strandja Memorial Tournament is Bulgaria’s biggest boxing event, and is a wonderful tradition across the European continent.
This event is essentially a mini world championships in Sofia, and is celebrating the 65th edition in the history of the tournament.
China’s three-time AIBA Women’s World Champion and London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Ren Cancan returns to the world of boxing in this tournament, where 250 men’s and women’s boxers from 37 nations are registered to compete.
What: Strandja Memorial Tournament
Where: Sofia, Bulgaria
When: 23 February – 1 March 2015
The Tension and the Drama
Kazakhstan’s Nazym Kyzaybay, Bulgaria’s Stanimira Petrova and Panama’s new sensation Atheyna Bylon all won gold medals at the 8th AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in Jeju, Korea last November, and following those excellent performances they will be in action in Sofia.
The key question is, can these boxers continue their dominance across their weight categories?
Also, are the home Bulgaria boxers able to compete at a high level in front of their supportive home fans?
The most anticipated battle in the event
A mouthwatering clash could take place between Panama’s Atheyna Bylon and Canada’s three-time AIBA Women’s World Champion Mary Spencer.
Bylon shocked the world in the last edition of the AIBA Women’s World Championships, but this time she will be fighting at the Olympic Middleweight class (75 kg) in Sofia.
Spencer is a highly decorated Champion in her own right, and their styles would gel well if they were to fight.
Ones to watch in the event
China’s three-time AIBA Women’s World Champion and London 2012 Olympic Games silver medallist Ren Cancan has been a member of their national team since 2007, and recently decided to return to the world of boxing.
The 27-year-old has received the right to prove she is still a world class athlete in the Flyweight class (51 kg) which is an official category of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games as well.
Her main rivals will be Bulgaria’s EUBC European Women’s Continental Champion Stoyka Petrova and Kazakhstan’s Nazym Kyzaybay in Sofia.
Uzbekistan’s Bektemir Melikuziev won the gold medal at the 2014 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships and at the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.
Following those youth successes, he has turned to the elite level, and claimed the gold medal in the Uzbek National Championships some weeks ago.
The 19-year-old Middleweight class (75 kg) boxer could be a star in 2015 and his first step will be the Strandja Memorial Tournament where he can fight against top opponents.
Fact of the Strandja Memorial Tournament
Altogether, 250 boxers are registered to take part in Sofia, where 174 men’s athletes from 32 countries and 76 women’s boxers from 26 nations are on the entry lists.
The total number of the participating countries is 37 according to the official entry list which will be a record in the history of the event.
Sofia will be also hosting the upcoming EUBC European Confederation Continental Championships in August following their excellent organizations in recent years.
The tournament has been scheduled for five women’s and ten men weight classes, and China, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Uzbekistan will be representing the Asian region in the Strandja Memorial Tournament while Brazil, Canada, Dominica, Panama and United States of America will be there in the event from the American continent, and Seychelles represent Africa.
History of the event
The first edition of the Strandja Memorial Tournament was held in Sofia in 1950 when all of the winners were boxers from the host nation.
Further Bulgarian cities such as Yambol, Plovdiv, Pleven, Pazardjik and Gabrovo also hosted the Strandja Memorial Tournament over the past two decades but the event returned to Sofia in 2012.
Bulgaria’s Denitsa Eliseeva defeated Katie Taylor in the Strandja Memorial Tournament four years ago in the biggest surprise of the competition in the last decade, and Stefan Ivanov won the gold medal in 2012 when he was able to beat Cuba’s London 2012 Olympic Games Champion Robeisy Ramirez in Sofia.
In the last edition of the event, Bulgaria, China, Ecuador, England, Netherlands, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Wales won the gold medals in Sofia.
Titleholders of the event
Women’s 51 kg: Stoyka Petrova, Bulgaria
Women’s 60 kg: Denitsa Eliseeva, Bulgaria
Women’s 75 kg: Maxine Koelemeij, Netherlands
Men’s 49 kg: Komol Meliyev, Uzbekistan
Men’s 52 kg: Chang Yong, China
Men’s 56 kg: Sean McGoldrick, Wales
Men’s 60 kg: Sergei Krasnitskiy, Russia
Men’s 64 kg: Samuel Maxwell, England
Men’s 69 kg: Simeon Chamov, Bulgaria
Men’s 75 kg: Onder Sipal, Turkey
Men’s 81 kg: Carlos Gongora, Ecuador
Men’s 91 kg: Tervel Pulev, Bulgaria
Men’s +91 kg: Fraser Clarke, England