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Adams, Taylor & Alekseevna go marching on in Samsun
by Michael O'Neill
April 15, 2016

(APR 15) Wednesday saw a packed schedule of quarter-final action at the AIBA European Olympic Qualification Tournament in Turkey, as the ten men’s and three women’s weight categories took to the ring knowing that a win puts them within one match of a Rio 2016 quota place.

Of the eighteen teams with boxers still in the competition, Great Britain now have nine athletes (inc. eight men) keeping their Olympic dreams alive, Armenia and Azerbaijan five and the Ukraine and host nation Turkey, four. Three Irish boxers remain, Katie Taylor, David Oliver Joyce and Brendan Irvine.

Early in the day, and in a repeat of the 2014 World Championships bantamweight final in Jeju, Bulgaria’s Stanimira Petrova defeated Italian Marzia Davide at their new flyweight class, setting up a semi-final showdown with Ukraine’s Tetyana Kob, who eliminated Ireland’s new sensation Ceire Smith who boxes out of the Cavan BC.

British favourite Nicola Adams controlled her tie against France’s Sarah Ourahmoune to take another step towards defending the Olympic title she won in London four years ago. Also AIBA Ambassador for the Astana 2016 Women’s World Championship, Adams will now meet Norwegian Marielle Hansen, who eliminated the Armenian AIBA Youth World Champion, Anush Grigoryan. Unusually the remaining Team GB female team members Chantelle Cameron and Savannah Marshall has exited the qualifiers earlier in the week.

Another reigning Olympic champion, Ireland’s Katie Taylor, looked as strong as ever against Denmark’s Yvonne Baek Rasmussen, and after a devastating final round will face Azerbaijan’s Yana Alekseevna in the lightweight semi-final for a place in Rio. Bulgaria’s Svetlana Staneva Kamenova meets impressive Italian newcomer Irma Testa in the other semi-final. How Alekseevna was unseeded remains a mystery.

When Taylor and the Azeri met in the 2015 inaugural European Games, it was a very close encounter with all three judges scoring it 38:38 and only on “ aggression” was the Bray woman declared the winner.

"It was a close fight," said Taylor at the time. "It was always going to be. She's a top boxer. It was close, but I don't care, I'm through to the finals. I know I was down after three rounds so I had to go out and put the pressure on and try to win the round clearly."

Alekseevna said: "It was a strong competition and just a tiny step prevented me from winning. She is a worthy opponent. I don't feel pity to be defeated by her. She is my idol after my father. I am a big fan of Katie."

Friday will see them renew ‘hostility’ with an even bigger prize at stake – the winner get a Rio Olympic quota place, the loser must try again at the Worlds in Kazakhstan in late May.

Italy’s Irma Testa though is certainly ‘one to watch’ for the future. Born on December 28th 1997, Testa began boxing in 2010 following in the footsteps of her older sister, before a successful 2012 saw her claim victory in the Italian Women’s Junior National Championships, and win a bronze medal at the 2012 EUBC European Women’s Junior Continental Championships.

Testa won the Youth Featherweight class (57 kg) gold medal in the AIBA Women’s Junior/Youth World Boxing Championships Taipei 2015, and received the best boxer of the tournament award from AIBA President Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu.

As the young Italian said at the time : “My style is very technical, and I like to keep at a distance in my bouts. I train three-times every day, but I do not have any special methods, I just do my job. I respect all of my opponents in the ring, and I hope that my best boxer trophy in Taipei will set a good example to all of the Italian women’s boxers.”

Back to Samsun : “Katie Taylor knew what she was doing and when to do it. It was a comfortable win and she took all four rounds, but she boxed well within herself and the result was never in doubt,” said a contented Irish team manager Joe Hennigan after the bout.

Cork’s Christina Desmond couldn’t quite summon the same performance that saw her eliminate top middleweight seed Nouchka Fontijn in the previous round, as she fell to Hungary’s former AIBA Youth World Champion Petra Szatmari. The Hungarian will meet Sweden’s former two-time AIBA Women’s World Champion Anna Laurell Nash after she eliminated France’s Erika Guerrier in one of the closest bouts of the day.

“To be honest, my Irish opponent was better in the first round, she had clear punches and her footwork was great, so at the first break we decided to change tactics and use different combinations in my attacks and raise my rhythm. My jabs stopped her and the continuous attacks pressurized her during the second part of the contest,” said Petra Szatmari after their key quarter-final.

As Team Manager Joe Hennigan said Taylor comfortably beat Denmark’s Yvonne Rasmussen on a unanimous decision, with one judge handing her a 10-8 round in a 40-36,40-36, 40-35 win.

Insofar as the Irish men are concerned David Oliver Joyce was involved in a fiery battle with Vazgen Sufaryants before posting a 30-26,29-28.29-28 victory, and Brendan Irvine won the first round against Elie Konki, lost the second and won the third to register a split verdict over the French lightweight.

Ceire Smith though was unlucky to lose on a split after it went back to the judges a second time after her tie with Tetyana Kob finished level on two cards, the third marked it to the Cavan BC flyweight, while Desmond produced a big performance versus Hungary’s former World Youth champion Petra Szatmari, who bounced back to win on a unanimous after the Cork southpaw claimed the first round.

All the results from every day of the competition – courtesy Strefa Poland boxing : http://amateur-boxing.strefa.pl/Championships/EuroOlyQual2016.html

Quarter-finals scorecards: http://d152tffy3gbaeg.cloudfront.net/2016/02/C74-C74E15_2.pdf

Semi-finals line up: http://iaba.ie/site3/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/C58-C58D0415.pdf

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