Europe’s stars Mira Potkonen and Oleksandr Khyzhniak named as Best boxers in the Strandja Memorial Tournament02 February 2020
The female and male finals were held at the 71st edition of the Strandja Memorial Tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria which is the oldest competition of the European continent. Finland’s Mira Potkonen won the star final of the Strandja Memorial Tournament and became the Best Woman Boxer in Sofia. Ukraine’s AIBA World Champion Oleksandr Khyzhniak was named as the Best Man Boxer of the tournament.
The management of the Bulgarian Boxing Federation is always a professional organizer with plenty of organizational experiences since 2012. The total number of boxers was 253 boxers from 34 nations and from four different Confederations which means the 71st edition of the Strandja Memorial Tournament was another small World Championships in Sofia as in the recent years.
The following 34 nations took part in the 71st edition: Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, host Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Morocco, North Macedonia, Norway, Panama, Poland, Refugee Team, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine and United States of America.
Bout of the day
Ireland’s Kellie Harrington claimed gold medal at the lightweight (60kg) in the 2018 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships and recovered from her injury. The Irish boxer had to face for the gold medal with her main European rival, Finland’s European Games winner Mira Potkonen which was the dream final of the Strandja Memorial Tournament. The Irish boxer looked quicker in the first round and worked more on feet than Potkonen in the opening minutes. The 30-year-old Irish boxer moved back one step before launching her counter-punches in the first round but it made her opponent into different rhythm. Potkonen has got amazing physical condition which supported her narrow success in the bout of the fifth competition day.
The surprise of the day
Georgia’s Lasha Guruli has got great goals this year and he has all of the potential to reach world class results. The Georgian No.1 was EUBC European U22 Champion in 2018 and following his few bouts at the welterweight (69kg), he returned to the lightweight (63kg). The Georgian eliminated India’s former ASBC Asian Champion Shiva Thapa in the semi-finals of the division and met for the title with Ukraine’s 23-year-old Yaroslav Khartsyz. The Georgian was the favourite of the bout but he suffered an unexpected loss to his Ukrainian National Champion rival.
United States sent two girls at the women’s flyweight (51kg) to the Strandja Memorial Tournament and both advanced to the finals in Sofia. Virginia Fuchs and Christina Cruz are both big names and experienced boxers who claimed medals already in the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. Fuchs is the No.1 currently but she had to do her very best against veteran Cruz to win the first title of the Strandja Memorial Tournament. Fuchs is now near to be selected for the upcoming American Olympic Qualification Event.
Ukraine’s Iulia Tsyplakova is a veteran boxer in the national team who eliminated a favourite India’s AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships silver medallist Sonia Lather Singh in the semi-finals. Tsyplakova met for the title with United States’ young hope, Andrea Medina who is 17 years younger than her the Ukrainian. Tsyplakova landed nice hooks in the opening round of the featherweight (57kg) final and she felt this is the best weapon against the US girl which delivered for her a gold medal in Sofia.
United States’ Oshae Jones is in strong promising stage following her international tournaments in the recent two years. The 21-year-old US girls eliminated Bulgaria’s EUBC European Women’s Champion Melis Yonuzova in the semi-finals and she was still hungry for a further success in Sofia. She controlled the first round against France’s Emilie Sonvico who also proved strong developments during her road to the finals. Jones caught her French opponent with heavy blows and claimed the gold medal of the welterweight (69kg).
United States’ next gold medal in the female part of the Strandja Memorial Tournament was achieved by Melissa Graham who had to do her very best in the final of the middleweight (75kg). She had to meet with the second French female finalist former Youth Olympian Davina Michel who eliminated Ukraine’s AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Anastasia Chernokolenko in the last four. Their fight delivered nice exchanges and several clear punches in the first round when Michel tried to use her longer reach. The US veteran shared her power well enough and these efforts were enough to beat the younger French in Sofia.
Italy’s Francesco Maietta had an impressive youth career and he was quickly involved to the elite national team five years ago. He claimed bronze medal in the 2015 EUBC European Elite Boxing Championships in Samokov at the age of 19. Maietta eliminated Bulgaria’s Boyan Asenov in the semi-finals which was an amazing comeback from the Italian. He had to box for the title with India’s Mohamed Hussamuddin and repeated his semi-final performance in Sofia. The Indian achieved silver medal in the 2017 edition of the Strandja Memorial Tournament and reached the same podium place today.
France’s Wahid Hambli was involved to the national team in the beginning of this Olympic era and he reached the Top8 at the Kharkiv 2017 EUBC European Elite Boxing Championships. The French boxer returned at the welterweight (69kg) last May at the Boxam Tournament which he won in Spain. Hambli dictated the tempo in the final of the Strandja Memorial Tournament against Belarus’ teenage hope Aliaksandr Radzionau and deserved his next gold medal in a big international event.
Ukraine’s AIBA World Champion, European Games winner and EUBC European Champion Oleksandr Khyzhniak is the biggest name in the male part of the Strandja Memorial Tournament. The 24-year-old Ukrainian middleweight (75kg) boxer landed three-times more punches than Belarus’ Vadzim Pankou in the first round of their final. The Belarusian boxer had to go to the medical corner in the third round but he was able to continue their fight which was unequal in Sofia. Khyzhniak proved that he is one of the main gold medal contender also in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.