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Emotional moments for the Georgians, Serbians, Bachkov, Usturoi and Mouhiidine in Yerevan

The last 13 bouts concluded at the EUBC European Men’s Elite Boxing Championships in Yerevan, Armenia today. Twelve nations advanced to the finals of the championship and among them ten achieved gold medals in the fantastic event. Georgia earned three titles and topped the medal standings while Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov bagged his third European title.

Altogether 219 boxers from 39 nations participated for the 52 available medals in the Armenian capital. The EUBC European Men’s Elite Boxing Championships was held at the 13 official weight categories: 48kg, 51kg, 54kg, 57kg, 60kg, 63.5kg, 67kg, 71kg, 75kg, 80kg, 86kg, 92kg and +92kg. Mr. Adam Kusior of Poland was the Technical Delegate of the EUBC European Men’s Elite Boxing Championships in Yerevan.

The bout of the day

The flyweight (51kg) delivered several surprises during the championship and two promising boxers as Spain’s Martin Molina and England’s Kiaran MacDonald advanced to the final of the event. The Spanish was more than 10cm smaller than his English rival but he used long-distance tactics and launched several counter-shots in the first round. Three out of the five judges favoured the Spanish boxer after the first round and both boxers waited for the best angles in the beginning of the second. Molina was patient in the middle part of the contest, delivered even better performance than yesterday and his quick punches reached MacDonald. Molina’s right-handed hooks were decisive today and he reached his career highlight with this emotional European gold medal, Spain’s next after Gabriel Escobar’s success in 2019.

The surprise of the day

Spain’s Jose Quiles had serious injuries in both of his hands but he recovered in time to take part in the preparations for the EUBC European Men’s Elite Boxing Championships. The Spaniard eliminated top opponents during his road to the lightweight (60kg) and faced Georgia’s Artyush Gomtsyan in a hectic final. The smaller Georgian is a strong attacker but he received several uppercuts from the Spanish boxer in the second round. Gomtsyan’s defence was not the best in this evening but he had the strong fighting spirit to win one of the most difficult final of the day.

The Round-Up

Eight boxers competed for the title of the minimumweight (48kg) and among them the two top seeds such as Georgia’s Sakhil Alakhverdovi and Bulgaria’s Ergyunal Sebahtin Sabri advanced to the final. The Georgian achieved a bronze medal at the 2021 AIBA World Boxing Championships and he was the favourite of their final bout but Sebahtin surprised him with tough shots in the first minute. The 21-year-old Bulgarian was more competitive than expected but Alakhverdovi found his best tempo still in the first round. The Georgian, who achieved silver at the 2019 European Games, was nervous in this final therefore all of the results depended on the third round. The Georgian found the best tempo in the final round and achieved his first ever European title among the elite boxers.

France’s two-time AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Billal Bennama was expecting to fight for the title against Spain’s European Games winner Gabriel Escobar in the final of the bantamweight (54kg). The Spaniard was defeated by Ireland’s Dylan Eagleson in the quarter-finals and the 19-year-old boxer marched to the final. Bennama was slightly better in the first tactical round but he increased his tempo in the second when the Bulgarian referee counted the Irish boxer after a serious head shot. The Seed No.1 Bennama achieved several strong international results during his successful career but earned his first ever European elite title.

Belgium’s Vasile Usturoi made two historical steps in this championship and advanced to the title contest as first from his nation since 1951. The Belgian used his counter-attacking style of boxing in the final against Armenia’s Artur Bazeyan who achieved gold at the 2021 EUBC European U22 Boxing Championships. Usturoi was a hard target but the 22-year-old Armenian caught him with two tough shots in the first round of their featherweight (57kg) final. The Belgian southpaw increased his rhythm in the second round but he was not able to deliver his virtuoso performance how he has done in the semi-final. Usturoi received the best advice in the second break, he calmed down and with his counter-shots in the third, he decided the final earning Belgium’s first gold medal after 71 years of hiatus.

Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov earned the titles at the 2017 EUBC European Elite Boxing Championships and the 2019 European Games. The two-time champion was aiming for his third title and he returned from the professional world to make it happen in Yerevan. The Armenian moved forward and he looked confident against France’s second finalist Lounes Hamraoui. The 30-year-old boxer had the experience to catch the quick French and landed several tough shots in the second and third rounds. Bachkov slowed down Hamraoui and he was better in all aspects of boxing today taking his third European title.

Serbia’s southpaw, Vakhid Abbasov won the title of the 2019 EUBC European U22 Boxing Championships representing Russia but he switched to his new country in 2020. The welterweight (67kg) boxer was smaller than his final opponent, Georgia’s Lasha Guruli but he used counter-attacking style. Abbasov kept Guruli on long in the first round and four out of the five judges favoured him after three minutes. The Georgian achieved a bronze medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championships last November but the ex-Russian Abbasov was quicker in the exchanges. Abbasov’s strategy was better today and he earned the independent Serbia’s first ever gold medal in the history of the championship.

England’s Mohammed Harris Akbar eliminated one of the stars of the championship, Ukraine’s World Champion Yuriy Zakharieiev in the semi-finals of the light middleweight (71kg) one day ago. The 24-year-old English faced his neighbour, Wales’ promising Garan Croft in the final and his game plan worked slightly better in the first round. The three-years-younger Welshman landed better jabs in the beginning of the second round but Akbar adopted the higher rhythm and his responses were stronger today. Akbar was too experienced for the EUBC European U22 Boxing Championships silver medallist young Welshman and achieved a gold for England. The next English finalist, Lewis Richardson had strong job in the middleweight (75kg) final against Ireland’s Gabriel Dossen but his rival was fully focused today. Dossen, who earned bronze at the 2016 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championship, won his first major elite competition.

Italy’s Alfred Commey is a new diamond at the light heavyweight (80kg) who lost only two contests during his whole career but he is inexperienced in the elite stage yet. The EUBC European U22 Champion faced Serbia’s ex-Russian Artjom Agejev in the final of the light heavyweight (80kg), a more experienced rival. Commey used his powerful shots to catch the veteran Serbian in the first round but the 30-year-old Agejev was better in the second landing effective left-handed hooks in that period. Agejev won the 2018 Korotkov Memorial Tournament and returned to the world of boxing in the end of December 2021 representing Serbia at the Golden Gloves Tournament and now he is European Champion.

Georgia’s fourth finalist Georgiy Kushitashvili switched from Russia and represented his new nation at the cruiserweight (86kg) in Yerevan. He was quarter-finalist at the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships and proved the best performance in this new category in this event. Kushitashvili caught his Armenian opponent, Rafayel Hovhannisyan with tough shots in the end of the first round and he was better from all of the distances. The 27-year-old Georgian was too strong for the Armenian who had a brave attempt against Kushitashvili but the favourite won the European title.

Italy’s Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine won EUBC U22 European Boxing Championships, Mediterranean Games and EUBC European Union Boxing Championships but his career highlight is a silver from Belgrade last November. The Italian heavyweight (92kg) boxer faced Spain’s Emmanuel Reyes in a repeat match and following his excellent performance he became his nation’s first gold medallist since Giacobbe Fragomeni’s title from 1998. The last gold medal of the entire championship was won by Germany’s Nelvie Tiafack who stopped Spain’s Ayoub Ghadfa Drissi El-Aissaoui.

The quotes of the day

“I cannot believe it that I am European Champion after so many years of hard work. I was dreaming about a final in my whole life and I won my first. My coaches told me after the second round that I can make it,” added Spain’s Martin Molina after his historic gold medal.

“I was working hard for this European gold medal, it was my objective before the start of the championship but I made it. This is a fantastic moment in my life and I believe my passion for the sport was the key for this success. The Irish boxer has great skills, he is young, he has good eyes therefore I have to do my best today,” said France’s bantamweight champion, Billal Bennama.

“This is history for Serbia and I would like to take this opportunity to thanks for my team and coaches who worked hard on this gold medal. It was a good fight but I felt from the first seconds that I am stronger today,” added Serbia’s ex-Russian Vakhid Abbasov.

“I came back after the first round in the semi-final after the World No.1 yesterday which made me more confident today. I found the best fighting distance immediately and after that boxing was easy. This is an amazing feeling and thanks for my coach, without him I would not be on the top of the European podium,” commented England’s Mohammed Harris Akbar.

“It was a nice final with beautiful technique of boxing and I have all of the respects to Emmanuel Reyes. He is a great champion, a fantastic boxer but today I could beat him,” said Italy’s Aziz Abbes Mouhiidine after the heavyweight final.

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