Lezin, Paliani, Simion, Lebziak, Erdei, Fragomeni and Esther made a memorable European Boxing Championships in Minsk in 1998

06 August 2020 News

The 32nd edition of the European Boxing Championships was held in Minsk, Belarus where only the qualified boxers could attend for the medals. Russia’s Aleksey Lezin and Ramazi Paliani, who switched to Turkey, were able to defend their thrones in Minsk after Vejle. Russia’s Aleksandr Lebziak, Romania’s Dorel Simion, Italy’s Giacobbe Fragomeni and Hungary’s Zsolt Erdei produced strong performances while France claimed gold after 25 years of break.

More than 300 boxers attended in the Vejle 1996 European Boxing Championships therefore the management of EABA decided to launch qualification events to the Minsk 1998 edition to select the best 16-16 boxers in each weight class. The qualification events were held in the biggest and traditional European tournaments before the start of the Minsk edition.

Belarus separated from the Soviet Union in 1991 and hosted their first European Boxing Championships in 1998. The first competition day of the 1998 European Boxing Championships was May 17 in Minsk while the finals were held on May 24. EABA and the Belarusian organizers arranged a rest day in the competition between the semi-finals and the finals on May 23.

Due to the qualification system there were not any weight classes where two rounds of preliminaries were scheduled in Minsk. The total number of the boxers was 180 in the Minsk 1998 European Boxing Championships where the participants could compete in 12 weight classes as in the previous editions.

The following record number of 38 nations attended in the 1998 European Boxing Championships in Minsk: Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, France, F.Y.R of Macedonia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, Wales and Yugoslavia.

Host Belarus and Russia qualified maximum number of 12 boxers to the Minsk 1998 European Boxing Championships. Turkey and Ukraine had both 11, while Romania sent 10 boxers to Minsk following the qualification events.

The Russians claimed four gold medals at the Budapest 1997 AIBA World Boxing Championships and their team repeated that performance in Minsk eight months later. Ukraine finished as runner-up in the medal table with two gold medals while the Turkish team became the third with four podium places in Minsk.

Romania, Hungary, France, Germany and Italy also won one title in the Minsk 1998 European Boxing Championships. Armenia and host Belarus both earned three medals in 1998 but without any gold. England, Georgia, Ireland, Lithuania, Greece, Israel, Norway, Poland and Sweden were the further nations in the medal table. One of the previous leading nations of the continent, the Bulgarians failed to get any medals in Minsk.

The Bulgarians dominated the light flyweight (48kg) through the 1980s and 1990s but their titleholder Daniel Petrov lost his first preliminary fight to Ukraine’s Oleg Kiryukhin which was the repeat match of the final of the Vejle 1996 European Boxing Championships. The Ukrainian lost his semi-final to Russia’s Sergey Kazakov who did not stop until the gold medal of the weight class after beating Lithuania’s Ivanas Stapovicius.

Ukraine’s Volodymyr Sydorenko won his key fight against Turkey’s Agassi Agaguloglu in the quarter-finals and marched to the final of the flyweight (51kg). The 22-year-old Ukrainian was untouchable for Russia’s Ilfat Razyapov in the final and won his first gold medal. His teammate Serhii Danilchenko bowed out the 1993 champion Russia’s former Tajik boxer Raimkul Malakhbekov and continued his winning path against Romania’s Marian Alexandru in the final of the bantamweight (54kg).

Ramazi Paliani arrived to the Minsk 1998 European Boxing Championships as one of the top favourites of the featherweight (57kg). He earned medals representing the Unified Team, Georgia and Russia in the previous years but in Minsk he has done his very best for the Turkish team. He had a hard road to the gold medal but he was able to beat Ukraine’s Oleksandr Lutsenko, Germany’s AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Falk Huste, Russia’s heavy puncher Sayan Sanchat and Armenia’s Artyom Simonyan therefore Paliani was able to defend his throne.

Falk Huste’s brother Kay was 24 by the time of the Minsk event and used his fantastic defence to beat his opponents launching counter-attacks with perfect timing. The Budapest 1997 AIBA World Champion Aleksandr Maletin of Russia was defeated by Romania’s Gheorghe Lungu in the preliminary round which opened Huste’s way to the glory. The German boxer eliminated the Romanian in the quarter-finals and he outpointed also Georgia’s Koba Gogoladze in the final of the lightweight (60kg).

Romania’s Dorel Simion claimed gold medal at the Budapest 1997 AIBA World Boxing Championships and the 21-year-old light welterweight (63.5kg) boxer continued his glorious pathway in Minsk as well. His main rival Turkey’s Nurhan Suleymanoglu also advanced to the final which was his third after 1993 and 1996. The younger Romanian landed more punches than his Turkish rival and his aggressive style paid off in their final.

Russia’s Oleg Saitov joined to the elite national team in 1993 and the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Champion and Budapest 1997 AIBA World Boxing Championships winner dominated the welterweight (67kg) in Minsk. He proved his very best against his main rival Romania’s Olympic Games bronze medallist Marian Simion in the semi-finals and Saitov was also too smart for Ukraine’s Serhii Dzindziruk in the final.

France’s Frederic Esther attended in the 1996 Vejle edition but he proved his significant development in Minsk two years later. The 26-year-old French boxer dominated his first fight against Estonia’s Roman Aleksejev and following that he stopped his two further opponents as Georgia’s Tengiz Jaoshvili and England’s Christopher Bessey. Esther controlled his final over Turkey’s Aslan Ercüment and bagged France’s first gold medal since Aldo Cosentino’s title in the Belgrade 1973 edition.

East Germany and Germany won all of the European titles at the middleweight (75kg) between 1985 and 1996 but after six-in-a-row titles their Harald Geissler failed to continue that superb mission in Minsk. The defending AIBA World Champion Zsolt Erdei of Hungary dominated all of his four fights in the event including his semi-final over France’s Jean-Paul Mendy and his final against Ireland’s Brian Magee. Following his silver in Vejle, Zsolt Erdei won his first European Championships title in 1998.

Russia’s Aleksandr Lebziak claimed his first European and World medals in 1991 and after several years of experiences he won the title at the Budapest 1997 AIBA World Boxing Championships and repeated that strong result in Minsk as well. The strong Russian stopped Hungary’s Gyorgy Hidvegi, and he controlled his next fights against Germany’s Torsten Bengtson and Poland’s Tomasz Adamek. Lebziak had a quick final against England’s Courtney Fry when the referee stopped their contest still in the first round.

Italy’s Giacobbe Fragomeni was bronze medallist in the Budapest 1997 AIBA World Boxing Championships but he produced even better performance in Minsk. The 29-year-old Italian had tough fights against Germany’s Maik Hanke, Russia’s Evgeniy Makarenko and Belarus’ Sergey Dychkov but he solved all of the tactical issues and won the European title. Russia’s fourth gold medal in Minsk was taken by Aleksey Lezin who defeated Ukraine’s Volodymyr Lazebnik in the final of the super heavyweight (+91kg) defending his European throne.

List of the winners in the 1998 European Boxing Championships

  • Light flyweight (48kg): Sergey Kazakov, Russia
  • Flyweight (51kg): Volodymyr Sydorenko, Ukraine
  • Bantamweight (54kg): Serhii Danilchenko, Ukraine
  • Featherweight (57kg): Ramazi Paliani, Turkey
  • Lightweight (60kg): Kay Huste, Germany
  • Light welterweight (63.5kg): Dorel Simion, Romania
  • Welterweight (67kg): Oleg Saitov, Russia
  • Light middleweight (71kg): Frederic Esther, France
  • Middleweight (75kg): Zsolt Erdei, Hungary
  • Light heavyweight (81kg): Aleksandr Lebziak, Russia
  • Heavyweight (91kg): Giacobbe Fragomeni, Italy
  • Super Heavyweight (+91kg): Aleksey Lezin, Russia
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