Belarusian chances in European ring

Minsk hosting European Boxing Championship
By Dmitry Baranovsky

For the second time, Europe’s strongest boxers will be gathering at Minsk’s Sports Palace, with Belarusians among the contenders.

Belarus welcomed the European Boxing Championship 15 years ago, in 1998, when three Belarusian boxers took medals. This opened the path to much boxing success, creating hopes for this year’s championship.

The current European Championship is the last before the next World Championship, hosted in autumn by Astana, following new rules regarding the wearing of helmets. Explaining the reason for such radical change, the President of the European Boxing Confederation (EUBC), Franco Falcinelli, notes that, at the next Olympic Games, hosted by Rio de Janeiro, around 70 professional boxers will be taking part. He tells us, “In order to ensure fairness, no helmets will be allowed in amateur boxing.” Undoubtedly, this will affect the performance of some boxers, so the October results should prove interesting.

Some (rather significant) innovations are to be tested in Minsk beforehand. Firstly, ‘seeding’ is to be used at the European Championship for the first time, with the strongest athletes spaced across the tournament schedule, so that they meet only in the finals. Scoring will also change, as Dmitry Tikhomolov, the Chairman of the Belarusian Boxing Federation, explains. The aim is to enhance objectiveness.

Certainly, our Belarusian boxers are in with a good chance, as the head coach, Vladimir Shin, emphasises. He views five among the main contenders, the most experienced of whom is Victor Zuev (super-heavy weight). Over his long career, Victor has collected awards from every tournament: from European championships to Olympic silver in Athens. He is finally ready to take a championship title.

Sergey Korneev also dreams of gold, having lost out on a medal at the London Olympiad after judges challenged a decision. The World and European championship silver medallist tends to attack too early, so that may prove his weakness. Vazgen Safaryants has twice claimed European medals and is also expected to stand a fighting chance at the forthcoming event.

There may be some unexpected surprises of course. Belarusian Mikhail Dolgolevets, who boxed at the London Olympic Games (81kg category), has lost out on his place in the national squad after being defeated by young Sergey Novikov. “I must admit that I don’t expect to qualify for the main line-up,” noted Sergey beforehand. “However, I will do my best.”

Much is also expected from Pavel Kostromin, who Mr. Tikhomolov, believes to be one of the most promising young Belarusian boxers. Naturally, winning medals won’t be easy, since around three-dozen titled boxers (from European and world championships and the Olympic Games) are attending. The tournament opens the new Olympic cycle, so is of principal importance. By the time Astana hosts the World Championship, the balance may have changed drastically. Teams from 36 countries are taking part, bringing over 300 boxers.
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