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8th Women’s European Championships – Rotterdam – a great success story
By Michael O’Neill
October 25, 2011


(OCT 25) From the moment that the International Olympic Committee added three women’s bouts to the 2012 Olympic Games it was always likely that the 2011 8th edition of the European Amateur championships would draw a record number of contestants to the lovely Dutch city of Rotterdam but even the organisers, Nederlandse Boxbonds could hardly have anticipated such a great success story as this tournament, which ended Saturday, has proved to be.

There were some 161 boxers from a record 31 European countries who entered teams here at the TopSports Centrum right next to the famous soccer ‘Stadion Feijenoord ” (better known by its nickname “De Kuip”) in downtown Rotterdam . Co-incidentally the event helped Nederlandse Boxbonds celebrate their 100th centenary, an honour shared in 2011 with the Irish Amateur Boxing Association (I.A.B.A). To add to the drama of the occasion there was to be a much anticipated “battle royal” for the 60kg lightweight crown between two times AIBA world champion and Ireland’s Katie Taylor, who was seeking a record 12th in a row major International championships success having since 2005 already annexed three World titles, four European championships, four European Union (EC) golds not to mention being twice voted AIBA female boxer of the year. Could Ochigava put an end to Taylor’s great record or would the Bray native win an all -time record Five European titles ‘in a row ?

Saturday dawned bright and sunny in lovely Rotterdam as the fans made their way to the TopSport Centrum by road, rail and water-taxi. When the opening bell sounded there were a “sell out” 2,500 boxing enthusiasts inside , ready for the action, many of them VIP’s from Dutch and other Boxing associations as well as that all time Dutch favourite, Lucia Riker. Hardly surprisingly Riker (a special Ambassador for the event and regular contributor to wban.org and womenboxing.com ) received a rapturous welcome from ‘her’ home fans, and deservedly so.

The opening contest at 48kg (Light Flyweight) saw a surprise finalist in the form of Lynsey Holdaway representing Wales against Russia’s much decorated Svetlana Gnevanova. It was a fine bout – Holdaway had reached the last 8 at the 2010 Worlds in Barbados but the Russian was a deserving 13: 9 winner on the night.

England’s Nicola Adams, a member of the GB Olympic podium squad, and twice Silver medallist was hoping to turn silver to Gold in her 51kgFlyweight final against Sarah Ourahmoune,from France. Adams repeated her two wins against the French champion earlier this year emerging victorious 15:8 and establishing herself as a potential Gold medal favourite for London 2012. Adams is 29 and boxes out of the Haringey Club in London albeit from Leeds.
Russia’s Elena Savelyeva was always favourite for the Bantamweight (54kg) title and so it proved defeating Poland’s Sandra Drabik 16:12. Already two golds for the 10 woman Russian squad and Ochigava,Sinetskaya, Kosova and Torlopova still to come. Could they make it 6 again as four years ago?
At 57kg we had “the surprise packet” of the tournament, England’s Lisa Whiteside from Preston reaching the final in this her first International event albeit the English ABA titleholder. She was up against hot favourite, Ukraine’s Natalia Biriuk. Seven Ukrainian athletes had been through to the semi-finals but only two to the finals. Here managed to “hold on” to a slender lead winning 15:14 in a very exciting contest. Great credit to Whiteside who is not part of the official GB Olympics podium team nor is the aforementioned Lynsey Holdaway at this time.

And so to the bout the amateur boxing world had been looking forward to – Ochigava v Taylor for the Lightweight (60kg) crown. Ochigava had been awarded an 8:1 decision when last they met in the Czech Republic much to the bewilderment of the Irish Management and many neutrals. Would we see another Ochigava win?
Taylor answered that one right from the off. In a ‘cagey’ start Taylor managed a 1-0 first round lead thanks to a ‘cracking right’. That lead was gradually extended to 4:1 by end of round 2. She totally dominated round 3 which set her up for a spectacular 10:5 win albeit Ochigava fought a gallant fight until the final bell tolled.
How was the battle won? Taylor’s coach and Dad, Peter commented later:
“"We studied all of Ochigava's fights out here this week and the important thing was that Katie remained patient. We're absolutely delighted with the win and to be taking home gold".
"The Russian girl wanted her to come forward but Katie stayed composed and implemented the tactics.
"We had to hold her back at one stage as she wanted to go for her, but that would have played into her hands."
Katies’ own thoughts ? "Sofya is one of the best opponents I have ever met and I'm absolutely thrilled with the win. I can't believe it really”.
"Obviously, we are rivals inside the ring, but we really get on very well outside the ring. She's a lovely person as well as fantastic boxer”.
So Taylor won in Rotterdam – another Gold medal on its way to the family home in Bray and another reception committee – and adoring fans - to greet the returning champion at Dublin Airport on Sunday night. European Champion for the fifth successive year, a great role model for all aspiring Irish sports stars, male and female, and a very modest young woman, still only 25.

Gulzum Tatar of Turkey retained her 64kg Light Welter title against Armenia’s Armine Sinabian, the first woman boxer from that country to win a medal in Europe.Overall though Tatar was too strong as the 10:4 verdict suggests. A strong competitor for Taylor, Ochigava, Queen Underwood or the best of the rest in the Olympic qualifier in China in May?
The ‘great moment’ all of the Dutch fans had been waiting for when 33 years old Marichelle de Jong took Gold at welterweight proving too much of a handful for Ukraine’s Maria Badulina. A great servant for boxing in the Netherlands over so many years no one would begrudge de Jong her title here which was as clear cut as the 21: 12 verdict indicates. A great way for the Dutch Federation to celebrate their 100th year in existence.This win will remain in the memory and the records of the Dutch nation for many years to come.
Russia’s Nadezhada Torlopova moved down two weights so she could aim at gold for the London Olympics. Here she dented the hopes and dreams of a Dutch double win, defeating Nouchka Fontijn 13:11. A fair result to a great bout for which both deserve credit. Fontijn is improving all the time.

Teenager Svetlana Kosova gained another Russian gold in the Heavyweight 81kg event winning 17:6 against Poland’s Sylwia Kusiak and the evening ended with another shock defeat for one of the Russian favourites, the two time World Super Heavyweight (81+kg) champion Irina Sinetskaya who lost out to the former AIBA world champion from Turkey, Semsi Yarali. A deserved win for Yarali though the contest was a tough one – 12:10 the verdict here though it was not well received by many of the strong Russian delegation in Rotterdam.

To sum up, a great occasion for women’s boxing in Europe, much stronger competition than ever before, a great win for Marichelle de Jong, another strong performance from the leading team (Russia). Superb organisation by the Dutch Federation led by Tournament Director, Hans De Bruijn and his team . And let us not forget that ‘Irish eyes are still smiling’ after Katie Taylor’s five-in-a-row title win in Rotterdam with the Irish team, management and supporters ‘singing’ her to victory with chants of “Ole,Ole.Ole”.

Roll on London 2012 – when women’s boxing finally reaches the stage it should have had in Beijing and when millions of cynics will finally realise and accept once and for all, that women’s boxing is very much here to stay thanks in no small measure to the efforts of many great pioneers, some no longer with us and many long since retired or are now coaches or administrators, and those of today , like Sofya Ochigava, Marichelle DeJong, Gulzum Tatar, Nikki Adams, Queen Underwood, Mary Spencer, Mary Kom and Katie Taylor who have the opportunity- and the stage - to demonstrate to the world watching on TV as well as those at the Excel Centre that women’s boxing has much to offer, is exceptionally skilful, and very much a sport that young women of all ages can enjoy and benefit from . Yes, we look forward to London 2012 with confidence.

Results in full: http://www.ewbc.eu/Accreditation/Results22OCT.pdf


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