Since the introduction of Women’s Boxing to the 2012 Olympic Games programme, the sport has blossomed throughout the world as is evidenced by the fact that the inaugural A.I.B.A World Youth and Junior Championships taking place in Antalya, Turkey from 24 April features some 264 young women boxers from 45 different countries with 151 entrants for the Youth Championships ( this figure is even higher than that for the first elite Women’s World Championships, held in Scranton, USA in 2001) whilst another 113 go for glory in the Juniors.
Each confederation is represented in the youth tournament and some nations which are newcomers to women’s boxing have also entered their first World championships such as Afghanistan, Benin, Bosnia & Herzegovina, French Polynesia, Guatemala, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Mali, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Syria and Tajikistan. The decision to allow women’s boxing at the 2012 Olympics in London has encouraged many more nations to permit women’s boxing though several countries still resist including Cuba.
Ireland’s 13-strong contingent leave Dublin today ahead of the Antalya event and, following their fine performances in Calais-Sangatte at last year’s European Youth and Juniors , hopes are high that the Irish squad will do well again here. That said public expectations should not be set too high as these are the Worlds not the Europeans so the competition will obviously be much greater with fighters from countries like China and India expected to do well in addition to those from traditional European strongholds like Russia and host nation Turkey.
Due in no small measure to the success of Katie Taylor in recent years, women’s boxing has become much more popular now in Ireland – much has been done by the IABA to assist the growth of the sport in this country, particularly by the organisation’s National Development Manager, Swedish-born Anja Norman and by the Taylors, Mary Lawlor and Sadie Duffy but there is still a long, long way to go .
There needs to be further funding made available especially for the training of more women coaches, referees and other female officials, around the country. Understandably there is still a reluctance for many parents to allow young girls to go to regular boxing sessions if there are no female officers especially coaches available. The vast experience of current stars like Ms Taylor, Alanna Murphy and Sinead Kavanagh needs also to be made available in the longer term.
Among the Irish competing in Antalya are 2010 European Youth and Junior silver medallists Katie Rowland and Christine Gargan and it will be particularly interesting to see how the 17 years old Geesala boxer, Katie Rowland fares ,as many in the sport believe she may be in contention for a place as one of Ireland’s three female competitors in the London Olympics.
The Irish team have undergone intensive training at the Clann Naofa BC in Drogheda in preparation for the championships.
European and Olympic Youth champs Paddy Barnes , Ryan Burnett and Tyrone McCullagh, all of the Holy Family BC in Belfast, and St John Bosco BC’s Elite champ Michael Conlon helped put the squad through their paces.
Holy Family BC coach Gerry Storey, said that the Ireland squad had got through a tremendous amount of hard work.
The IABA’s Director of Boxing Dominic O’Rourke, who will be with the Irish team in Turkey,believes his charges will put up a good performance , at the Kepez Belediye Kapali Spor Salon in Antalya.
“The squad have a very productive and tough training camp at the Clann Naofa club in Drogheda. Their confidence is high and we’re all looking forward to the Championships,” said O’Rourke.
So who are they up against?
Sweden’s spearhead 18-year-old European Junior Champion and reigning European Youth Champion Love Holgersson is one of the biggest names in the Youth World Championships.
I.F Linnea club boxer Holgersson is an experienced athlete who, despite her young age, has already fought in eight different international events. Holgersson will be competing in the welterweight class where she is the biggest favourite in the youth tournament. Her compatriot and European Junior Champion Patricia Berghult also has medal expectations in the lightweight division in Antalya.
Rather surprisingly,whilst many new nations are taking part, traditionally strong American nations such as Canada, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela and Argentina won’t be taking part at the event while Italy, Norway, Belarus and the Czech Republic from Europe will also miss the historic AIBA event.
Russia’s Nikolayev Ladies Cup winner 17-year-old Anastasiya Belyakova competed at the 6th AIBA Women’s World Championships in Bridgetown, Barbados last year where she advanced to the quarterfinal and only World No. 1 Katie Taylor of Ireland could stop her ,albeit by a very convincing margin. She therefore has more than enough experience to beat all of her rivals in the lightweight class in Antalya.
Krasnodar-based Yaroslava Yakushina, unbeaten in her career, is another Russian to watch in the championships. She won the gold medal, not only at the 2008 European Women’s Junior Championships but also at the 2010 European Women’s Youth Championships.
China’s 17-year-old Zhang Yibo will be going for gold at flyweight after taking silver at the National Women’s Elite Championships last year.
Kazakhstan’s National Elite Champion and Turkish Prime Ministry Tournament bronze medallist 17-year-old Nazym Kyzaybay is experienced enough to win the gold medal in the light flyweight division but will have to overcome tough opposition from Russia’s European Junior Champion Svetlana Dmitriyeva, the talented 16-year-old Nicezzaa Petecio of the Philippines and Sarjubala Shamjetsabam Devi, who was awarded the best boxer trophy at the Indian Women’s Youth National Championships.
The best local hope will be European Junior Championships gold medallist and Turkish National Champion Suheda Emre, who will be fighting in the light heavyweight division, in which only seven boxers are competing in Antalya.
The AIBA Women’s Youth World Championships are staged in 10 weight categories: Light flyweight (45-48kg), Flyweight (51kg), Bantamweight (54kg), Featherweight (57kg), Lightweight (60kg), Light welterweight (64kg), Welterweight (69kg), Middleweight (75kg), Light heavyweight (81kg) and Heavyweight (81+kg). The bouts are held over four rounds of two minutes with a one-minute break between rounds. A total of 151 boxers are registered for the AIBA Women’s Youth World Championships.
The AIBA Women’s Junior World Championships are staged in 13 weight categories: Pinweight (44-46kg), Light flyweight (48kg), Flyweight (50kg), Light bantamweight (52kg), Bantamweight (54kg), Featherweight (57kg), Lightweight (60kg), Light welterweight (63kg), Welterweight (66kg), Light middleweight (70kg), Middleweight (75kg), Light heavyweight (80kg) and Heavyweight (80+kg). The bouts are held over three rounds of two minutes with a one-minute break between rounds. A total of 113 boxers are registered for the AIBA Women’s Junior World Championships.
Boxing begins on Sunday at the 1st Women’s World Youth and Junior Championships.
2011 World Women Junior and Youth Championship, Antalya,Turkey, April 24th /May 1st
Irish Youth team:
48kg: Oliwia Samsonow (Cavan)
51kg: Katie Rowland (Geesala)
57kg: Michaela Walsh (Holy Family)
60kg: Shauna Browne (Clonmel)
64kg: Sarah Close (Holy Family)
69kg: Clare Grace (Callan)
Irish Junior Team:
48kg: Christine Gargan (St Georges)
50kg: Hannah Carthy (Paulstown)
52kg: Nicole Meli (Immaculata)
54kg: Shannon Power (Clonmel)
57kg: Louise Donoghue (Geesala)
60kg: Austeja Accuieta (Finn Valley)
63kg: Lisa Buckley (Monkstown)
Director of Boxing: Dominic O’Rourke
Team Manager: Anna Moore
Coaches: John McCormack & Al McFayden