Europe's Junior Boxers Head For Keszthely
Junior boxers in action at the Heydar Aliyev Junior Tournament
The European Junior Championships start this week in Keszthely, Hungary, where 34 strong boxing nations from the continent will be competing for the medals.
Keszthely is a small town with only 21,000 inhabitants located on the shores of the picturesque Balaton Lake in the western part of the country. The small town was added to the European boxing map last year when Keszthely staged the 6th EU Women's Championships with great success and a record number of female athletes.
Boxers born in 1995 and 1996 will be eligible to compete at the European Junior Championships with bouts held over three rounds of two minutes under official AIBA rules.
Altogether 241 athletes have entered from 34 nations: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia&Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Israel, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Turkey and Ukraine.
Joining the host Hungarian team with full 13-member squads are powerful nations such as Belarus, Ireland, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria are each sending 12 competitors to the event while Israel will have eleven young fighters in the championships.
Germany's young top rated team has been preparing for the AIBA Junior World Championships in their training camp with full-speed and will miss the continental event in Keszthely. It is already a tradition in France that their boxers do not compete in this age group, so they will not have any fighters in Hungary either.
Europe's No.1 Russian team is led by super heavyweight boxer 16-year-old Khadzhiakbar Mamakov, who is still unbeaten during his career at international level and has the biggest chance of taking the gold medal in Keszthely.
The Azeri, English, Georgian, Irish, Turkish and Ukrainian teams all have a high number of medal hopes, while Armenia, Belarus, Croatia, Hungary, Israel and Italy also have great expectations at the event, where seven European Schoolboy Champions will be fighting for the medals.
Some of the boxers already have international experience in this age group which they acquired at the Uman Liberation Cup in Ukraine, at the Ricardas Tamulis Memorial Tournament in Lithuania and at the Heydar Aliyev Junior Memorial Tournament in Baku, Azerbaijan.
At the last edition of the championships, which was held in Lviv, Ukraine, the Eastern part of the continent dominated the event. Out of 13 gold medalist 12 came from the post-Soviet region and England's Thomas Ward was the only Western European boxer to win a weight class.
The European Boxing Confederation's junior continental event will be an active preparation for the forthcoming AIBA Junior World Championships, which will start in Astana, Kazakhstan on July 23.