Five out of a possible six boxers from Russia took wins in the first day of finals at the IBA Junior World Boxing Championships 2023 at the Mika Stadium in Yerevan, Armenia.
Across the card, there were fiery fights and close calls – but some victories were more clear-cut than others.
Platon Kozlov was a contender for boxer of the day, defeating Adam Maca representing Albania in the men’s 57kg. Within the first round, the Russian put together an impressive combo, flooring the Albanian, but the referee deemed it as a slip.
Kozlov played it defensively in the second, but importantly got the pivotal strikes to lead unanimously, a lead that Maca was unable to overcome as he chased a referee’s stoppage in his favour in the last round.
Ekaterina Frolova was the unanimous winner in the women’s 75kg final, overcoming Uzbekistan’s Maftuna Yangieva in a sedated affair. Both boxers looked reserved in the feeling out process that is the first round, but it was Frolova who recaptured her semi-final performance, looking more dynamic and executing her signature straight right jab successfully, while Yangieva looked occasionally sloppy.
Fine margins were the difference between gold and silver for Snezhana Kuznetsova and Bairamkhan Ashurov.
European champion Kuznetsova faced Maria Georgopoulou of Greece in the women’s 50kg, with both standout stars from their previous bouts. Kuznetsova’s opener was vital to her victory, winning unanimously before the Greek was deemed more impressive by the majority of judges in the second round after scattering some single shots throughout and a three-shot combo. Late shots in the second and third rounds from the Russian could have been the difference-maker that allowed her to sneak out a 4-1 split decision win, a scoreline that does not tell the whole story.
Ashurov featured in one of the most intense bouts of the day, overcoming Panwar of India by a 3-2 split decision in the men’s 80kg. Panwar was mostly favoured in the first for his decisive jabs, taking his counterpart by surprise on restarts. Yet, Ashurov turned the heat up in the following two-minute round, having a high volume of punches to snuff out a late attempt by the Indian. Fatigue was the theme of the final round, with both fighters looking sloppy, but Ashurov being deemed the better of the two, surviving a late right hook who caused him to swivel.
Anastasiia Tiunina was victorious in the first 46kg final of the Championships, overcoming Maftuna Musurmonova of Uzbekistan. It was a rapid opening round, with the Uzbek starting best, but Tiunina impressing the judges as the bout went on, even planting a late left hook to win on a 4-1 split decision.
The only Russian defeat today came in the women’s 60kg, as Kazakhstan’s Tolganay Kassymkhan edged out Kira Leonova by a 3-2 split. It was a blazing second round that took the bout into another gear, with Kassymkhan hammering her opponent with looping shots from the shoulder. This caused some inaccuracy and made it a nervous final verdict as Leonova was able to halt the Kazakh’s momentum with some right hands of her own, but unable to change the score.
Kazakhstan would win three titles today, with another coming in a tight women’s 66kg bout for Aisulu Mukhit against Amalia Tugui of Romania. Another contest set at a high tempo, there seemed to be no let up, as the first two rounds were packed with non-stop punching. Tugui often took the front foot, but Mukhit was pickier with her punches to her benefit. With the Romanian needing a decisive hit in the third – losing on points –she smacked Mukhit straight in the face, clearly dazing her opponent and causing her to languish. The referee did not call for a count; and the difference between gold and silver for the Kazakh might have been her ability to just about stay on her feet.
Sydyk Ayazhan also claimed golden glory by beating India’s Amisha Kerketta in the women’s 54kg finale. This bout showcased the quality of the Kazakh, who looked in control with the best punches throughout as Kerketta chased a comeback. Although little chemistry between the two to produce a good fight, Ayazhan’s victory was unanimous.
The same could be said for Amantur Dzhumaev, who took the men’s 52kg title with the most dominant display of the day. The Kyrgyzstan boxer met Aren Kharatyan of the home nation, Armenia, and he broke the hearts of the crowd. Putting on a showcase, Dzhumaev forced a referee’s count at the end of the second round, as Kharatyan looked accepting of his pending defeat. Although he held out during the third round, the Kyrgyz athlete was the unanimous victor.
Yet, Armenians would have something to cheer about thanks to Vagharshak Keyan, who defeated IBA –Germany’s Emal Hamdam in the men’s 48kg. Both boxers were marginally favoured respectively, but Keyan was the more active of the two in the final round, chasing the favour of the judges, which he duly received.
Ireland’s John Maher claimed men’s 63kg gold, putting on a footwork masterclass to beat Khikmatillo Ulmasov from Uzbekistan. Maher punched and moved, using every inch of the mat and space to compliment his superior reach. While Ulmasov managed to score well on body blows, they were not as frequent as the long strikes of the Irishman. The Uzbek boxer was evasive but could not find a way to counteract his opponent.
Poland’s Fabian Urbanski was a comfortable winner in the men’s 70kg, being too slippery for Armenia’s Samvel Siramargyan. While the home favourite certainly stung his opponent when he struck, he was unable to make much of an impact.
In the final bout of the night, Sobirakhon Shakhobiddinova gave Uzbekistan a gold medal, beating Prachi Tokas in the women’s 80+kg final. Both were victorious by referee’s stoppage in the semi-finals, but neither could knock each other down this time. Shakhobiddinova prevailed unanimously, as India have nine more opportunities to claim that elusive gold medal.