The 2011 European Women’s Championships here at the Topsportcentrum in Rotterdam (right next to the famous Feijenoord Stadion) has been, thus far, without doubt the best women’s amateur tournament held in Europe and with the semi-finals and finals still to come, we can expect many more outstanding contests on Friday and Saturday – it has been a fitting way in which to celebrate the Centenary of the Netherlands Federation “Nederlandse Boksbond” formed, like their Irish colleagues, in 1911.
The organisation of these championships has been first class and though it is true that there have been a few “one sided” bouts that has usually been because one of the competitors has simply been ‘outstanding’ by any standards. Without doubt overall standards have greatly improved in the past 2 years and the vast majority of even the most cynical of those who feel that it should not have been approved for the London Olympics (and sadly there were many) cannot but be impressed when they see the action in London be it “live” at Excel or on their TV screens.
Thursday was a rest day in Rotterdam which at least gave many of those who had already exited the tournament an opportunity to see some of the sights of this wonderful city not least of which is the return to its home port after 50 years of the former steamship SS Rotterdam.Spectacular views at night from the upper decks of this grand,stately and majestic former flagship of the Holland America Line.
For others though just another day’s training in preparations for the semi-finals. Some fine bouts in prospect and an opportunity too for those at home – with a fast broadband link – to watch via www.ewbc.eu where all of the bouts are due to be streamed live both on Friday and on Saturday.On front screen click on word LIVE . The first bout on semi-finals day is scheduled for around 11.00 (local) and on Saturday around 19.00 (local).
In Friday’s opening session we can see the two 60 kg lightweight semis – the first of which is Sofya Ochigava, the Russian team captain against the ‘tough’ Bulgarian Denitsa Eliseeva and the second sees Sweden’s Helena Falk out to try and avenge August’s defeat in Bray at the hands of Katie Taylor. Eliseeva and Falk are fine boxers but it is difficult to see them winning against Ochigava or Taylor respectively. IF that is the outcome then we are surely in for one of THE best contests in the history of women’s amateur boxing come Saturday night.
Though much of the media attention has been on the Ochigava-Taylor rivalry, there are many other oustanding contests in store too.Romanian Steluta Duta is vastly more experienced than Lynsey Holdaway of Wales but the latter came good in the 2010 Worlds in Barbados and has been most impressive here. Their 48kg clash is likely to be one of the early bouts on Friday. Watch too for Poland’s Karolina Michalszuk and England’s Nicola Adams. Should they both win their semi-finals then that final too will be one to watch. No one has improved more in recent years than Adams even more praiseworthy when one recalls that serious back injury that threatened to end her career, little more than a year or so ago.
The ‘real’ surprise of this tournament has been the emergence of England’s Lisa Whiteside who only made her first appearance for England here and is the only one of her team who is not – and has not been- part of the GB Podium squad preparing for the Olympics. Her performances this week may well lead to the GB head coach to reconsider.The even younger Welsh dual boxing/football international, Lauren Price ,17 has a great future ahead – she meets Ukrainian champion Mariia Badulina in the first of the two 69kg semi-finals Friday evening.
The second session is equally interesting most especially the likely opening bout between Liverpool Rotunda BC’s Natasha Jonas and Turkey’s Gulzum Tatar. I expect both of them will be their country’s 60kg representative in London albeit that Chantelle Cameron has been the GB choice at both the European Union Championships in Katowice and here. Team GB has several other talented boxers at this weight too including Amanda Coulson and Ruth Raper and November’s GB Championships at the York Hall in Bethnal Green may well effectively be an unofficial Olympic Trial.
The host country has two of its three competitors through to the semi-finals and thus at 69kg -Marichelle de Jong (against Katarzyna Furmaniak of Poland) and Nouchka Fontijn (v Savannah Marshall) (75kg) will will have the best support on Friday. Marichelle de Jong has been a great servant of boxing in the Netherlands and no one in the sport ,would begrudge her a silver or gold this time round. That said Marshall from Hartlepool , with massive home support in London may well be better placed to win an Olympic medal.
I hear from sources in London that a very considerable number of tickets for the women’s boxing days,have been purchased by Irish fans so Katie Taylor too , if she qualifies,seems to be be assured of a huge backing group.Moreover seemingly Irish fans have also been legally purchasing tickets from resellers in other E.C countries. For now though these same fans will be looking forward to her bouts with Falk on Friday and possibly Ochigava in the final.
A great two days in store for supporters of women’s boxing irrespective of who they support.Later this month – on 31st October – it will be exactly 10 years since the 15 yrs old Taylor became the first winner of a licensed amateur bout in Ireland, that night defeating the 16 years old Alanna Audley (now Murphy), later to become her team mate at the 2010 World Championships in Barbados. Who of those present when history was made that October night in 2001 could foresee that the Bray native would be seeking a record 5th European title in a row some 10 years later.