Cuban salsa in the spotlight

April 15th, 2014 / All

The Preliminaries continued on Day 2 of the AIBA Youth World Championships in Sofia, with some fantastic boxing on show. Today saw the debut of the women in the event, with the eventual hope for all competitors’ qualification for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympic Games.

After a packed first day, the second was even bigger. A marathon program was held, with 54 bouts in three sessions. The Cubans lived up to their reputation as one of the strongest teams in the Championships by exhibiting some dominant performances.

Bout of the day
Turkey’s Neriman Istik and former AIBA Woman Junior World Champion Nikhat Zareen both claimed a silver medal at the AIBA Women’s Youth World Championships in Albena last September. Both boxers would have seen this tournament as a gold medal opportunity, but were drawn against each other in the first preliminary round in Sofia.

In a contest which could have been a final in any other tournament, both boxers dazzled, showcasing their skills against each other.

Their speed, agility and punching power were akin to those you see in Elite Championships, and neither boxer fought badly.

India’s Zareen struggled in the first round, unable to use her reach effectively, which played Istik’s hands.

After the first, Zareen changed tactics and worked more impressively fighting more on the outside. But Istik was always one step ahead, and her speed proved to be the main difference in ensuring her hand was raised after the bout.

Zareen will come again in the future, while Istik will be brimming with confidence at such an impressive win so early on in this competition.

Team of the day
Cuba have been one of the most dominant nations in boxing history, and again looked special today in Sofia.

The two-time Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament winner Javier Ibanez Diaz has never tasted defeat at international level, but his preliminary round opponent in Elvis Severino Rodriguez was the Dominican Republic’s biggest hope, and the AMBC American Junior Continental Champion was looking to score an upset.

Ibanez fought an intelligent contest however, consistently concentrating against the Dominican southpaw and found much joy with a succession of crunching body shots.

After a blistering start, Rodriguez ran out of steam somewhat in the final round, while a still fresh Ibanez continued to look impressive in keeping his undefeated record intact.

His teammate, the defending AIBA Junior World Champion Alayn Limonta was also looking for a strong start in Sofia, especially following his unexpected loss at the Pavlyukov Youth Memorial Tournament in Anapa, Russia six weeks ago.

His surprise defeat seemed to spur him on further here though, as the Cuban Lightweight (60kg) dominated his contest against the Seychelles’ southpaw Daniel Bonne from the very beginning of the fight, winning all three rounds and looking destructive throughout.

AIBA Road to Sofia boxer of the day
Moldova’s EUBC European Junior Championships silver medallist Dorin Bucsa has already won three international youth tournaments since January, and travelled to Sofia as one of the favourites for gold here.

The 17-year-old Moldovan Lightweight improved even further during his participation in the the AIBA Road to Sofia training camp, and fought Algeria’s top youth athlete Chemseddine Kramou on Day 2, ultimately defeating the former AIBA Junior World Championships quarter-finalist.

Bucsa offered blistering offence, while keeping a resolute and tight defence throughout the contest, which led to an emphatic victory.

Surprises of the day
The US women’s squad are always strong in international competition, and their Flyweight (48-51kg) hope Caitlin Orosco was thought of as one of their top expectations for success in Sofia.

Orosco was the gold medallist at the AIBA Women’s Junior World Championships in Albena last September and also bagged the top prize in the AMBC American Women’s Youth Continental Championships in Quito.

In that event she defeated Argentina’s Anyelen Espinosa in the final, and in Sofia she had to fight against the South American boxer once again.

Espinosa started the rematch strongly, utilising a wide range of hard punches on her American rival. Though Orosco grew into the bout, Espinosa’s quality shone through, and she won the fight two rounds to one.

The Argentinian, known as “La Peke” arguably fought her best ever bout, and will be heading into the rest of the tournament having already defeated one of her main competitors.

Another surprise saw Ukraine’s Youth National Championships silver medallist Volodymyr Fedorak defeat Ireland’s defending EUBC European Youth Champion Gary Cully. Fedorak replaced the AIBA Junior World Championships silver medallist Ruslan Zubachuk just before the competition started in Sofia, and his performance showed just how good a decision that was.

The 18-year-old Ukrainian was up against a very tough and game Cully, but he dominated the latter part of the fight, which enabled him to pick up the victory.

Ones to watch
Though Caitlin Orosco is now out, her American teammate Carlos Balderas needed only sixteen seconds to stop his inexperienced Sudanese opponent Nasereldin Elghali.

This is Sudan’s very first entry in the Championships, but the US Bantamweight (56kg) boxer Balderas was too strong for Elghali as he advanced to the next preliminary round where he will be looking to keep his momentum going.

Bulgaria’s first athlete in their home Championships was Bantamweight Dushko Mihaylov Blagovestov. The Bulgarian trains in the city of Varna, off the coast of the Black Sea, and he has experience of success in Sofia, as he became the silver medallist at the 2012 EUBC European Junior Continental Championships on home soil.

Blagovestov clearly thrives when fighting in front of his own fans, and started his Youth World Championships off well, with a convincing win over Denmark’s resolute Frederik Hede Jensen. His victory was the first triumph for the host nation in this event.

Kazakhstan’s Abylaykhan Zhussupov won the gold medal at the last edition of the AIBA Junior World Championships in Kiev, as well as the ASBC Asian Junior Continental Championships in Shymkent, and the ASBC Asian Youth Continental Championships in Bangkok.

All this success means Zhussupov is one of the biggest favourites for the gold medal in the Lightweight category in Sofia.

His first opponent in the Championships was the US Youth & Junior National Champion Isidro Ochoa, who started the fight surprisingly well, shocking Zhussupov in the first three minutes with some effective punches. However, the class of Kazakhstan’s best youth boxer proved too much, and he improved drastically in rounds two and three to move on to the next round.

Quote of the day
“Thanks a lot to the people who supported me in Argentina to prepare well enough to the qualification tournament. My opponent was Caitlin Orosco once again, who defeated me in the final of the AMBC American Women’s Youth Continental Championships in Quito. I felt I could do better today than one month ago so I am very happy now to beat her”, said Argentina’s Anyelen Espinosa after her surprise triumph in Sofia.

Tomorrow’s program
Further Preliminaries scheduled on the third competition day will see both genders in action at the Armeec Arena. The Flyweights will continue their competition, while the boxers at women’s Lightweight (57-60 kg) also start their long road to the finals in Sofia.

The men at 64kg, 69kg and 75kg will have to prepare for their upcoming contests.