The year 2021 turned out to be extremely busy for Ukrainian and world boxing! For a long time now, we have not been looking forward to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo in 2020. There was also a long-awaited resumption of other important competitions in which Ukrainian boxers proved to be the best!
The national men’s and women’s national teams began the Olympic year with a training camp, which took place from January 10 to 23 at the Olympic base in Koncha Zaspa. However, disappointing news with the spread of coronavirus infection worldwide has adjusted plans for international competitions. So, on the last day of January, the Olympic Group for the preparation and organisation of boxing licensed tournaments (BTF – Boxing Task Force) of the International Olympic Committee decided to move the boxing European Licensing Tournament, which was to take place in London, to another location. In the end, it was soon decided to hold a decisive stage in the fight for Olympic licenses in Paris in early summer.
This month, the main event in national boxing was the holding of the 2021 Ukrainian Championship for 22-year-olds in Chernivtsi. This is not only the first major competition in 2021, but also the first event after a significant number of tournaments in Ukraine were canceled or postponed due to the pandemic.
At the end of February, the national team of Ukraine took part in the oldest in Europe international tournament of class “A” “Strandzha-2021”. The competition was held for the 72nd time in a row, and it was one of the key stages for national teams in preparation for the Olympic Games and licensing tournaments. Strandzha 2021 ended with six medals in the asset for Ukrainian boxers, including one gold, three silver, and two bronze. The team leader Oleksandr Khyzhniak once again became the champion of the legendary tournament.
The Ukrainian Women’s, Juniors ‘and Girls’ Championship was held in Uzhhorod from March 8 to 14. For the first time in history, the capital of Zakarpattia hosted a boxing tournament of this level, which brought together the strongest athletes of the country in three age groups.
And from March 16 to 24 in Kryvyi Rih, the national championship among juniors took place. Almost three hundred of the strongest young boxers from all over Ukraine competed for the strongest title in 13 weight categories during the week. A solid motivation for them was a solid prize fund from one of the organisers.
The 2021 World Youth Championship took place in Kielce, Poland, from 13 to 23 April. This tournament became the first world-class boxing competition under the auspices of AIBA since the beginning of the pandemic. In terms of the number of participants (487 athletes from 66 countries), the tournament surpassed the previous World Youth Championship, which took place three years ago, in 2018.
The youth national team of Ukraine finished the competition with one of the best results in history! In total, our team won one gold, three silver and two bronze medals. Yuriy Zakhareev, a pupil of the Belgorod-Dniestrovsky Boxing School, became the world champion among young people! The successes of other young talents were no less pleasing: silver awards of Bozorboy Matyakubov, Ilya Togobytsky, charming Khrystyna Lakiychuk, bronze medals of Denis Salabay and Ruslan Tsykalo.
The 2021 Youth Championship of Ukraine took place in Belgorod-Dniester from May 18 to 25. 236 athletes of the youth age group competed for medals in 16 weight categories.
A special event was the solemn awarding of the world champion among youth Yuri Zakhareev. Yuriy received a cash prize of $10,000 and an apartment with in Odessa.
The main event of the first month of summer was the European Qualifying Tournament in Paris, which won licenses to participate in the XXXII Summer Olympic Games. The Ukrainian national team approached the competition in excellent shape and with a fighting spirit, which resulted in five licenses won for the Games in Tokyo. In addition to the captain of the National Men’s Team of Ukraine Mykola Butsenko, who won a ticket to the Games a year earlier, tickets to Japan were won by Oleksandr Khyzhniak, Tsotne Rogava, Yaroslav Khartsyz and Anna Lysenko. A joyful bonus was the confident victory of Khyzhnyak in the final battle of the licensed tournament over his main competitor – the representative of the Russian national team Gleb Baksha.
In the second half of June, the 2021 European Championship for men and women under 22 took place in Roseto degli Abruzzi (Italy). The national team of Ukraine U-22 showed an incredible result at these competitions, winning 11 medals, including 1 gold (victory of Dmytro Lovchynsky), 5 silver and 5 bronze. In terms of the total number of awards, Ukrainians took second place in this prestigious tournament!
A notable event in professional boxing was the victorious return to the ring of Vasiliy Lomachenko, who stopped the Japanese Masayoshi Nakatani in the 9th round on the night of June 26-27 in Las Vegas.
The Ukrainian junior boxing team triumphantly finished its performances at the European Championship of its age, which took place from July 1 to 11 in the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi. In total, Ukrainian athletes won 19 medals: 4 gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze.
Having won 19 awards out of 26 possible, the Ukrainian team took second place in the final team standings. This is one of the best results of the junior national team of Ukraine in the history of its performances at the continental championships. The champions and gold medals of the tournament were: Stepanov Alexey (75 kg), Gichva Oleg (66 kg), Chubrevichev Renat (46 kg) and Chernenko Polina (+80 kg).
Also, on July 24, the boxing tournament of the XXXII Summer Olympic Games started in Tokyo. Five Ukrainian boxers gave their all to fight for medals. Note the excellent performance of the only representative of the women’s national team of Ukraine in Tokyo: Anna Lysenko was able to reach the quarterfinals and was one step away from the first historic Olympic medal for Ukrainian women’s boxing.
The leader of the National Team of Ukraine Oleksandr Khyzhniak had four incredible fights at the Games in Tokyo! In the 1/8 finals defeated Yuito Morivaki from Japan, in the finals, he defeated the representative of the Dominican Republic Euri Martinez, in the semifinals, he was stronger than Emir Marsial from the Philippines.
In the final, the 26-year-old athlete was tested by Brazilian Ebert Souza. Oleksandr Khyzhniak had the undisputed advantage, winning the first and second rounds, leading all five judges. The third round similarly took place – Alexander generously poured his powerful side blows on the Brazilian’s face and led the fight to victory! Unfortunately, only annoyance – or rather, the referee’s mistake – affected the final result of the duel. After Alexander missed a mighty blow, the referee stopped the match without even starting the count to “8”, as required by the rules.
In the end, the silver medal of the Olympic Games, although in the hearts of fans Oleksandr Khyzhniak remained the champion. And shortly after the end of the Olympic Games, Sasha decided to stay in Olympic boxing and prove his greatness at the Paris Games in 2024.
The European Youth and Girls Championships started in Sarajevo on August 12, and the Ukrainian national team ended with a fantastic result, becoming one of the best national teams in the Old World. Our youngest athletes won 23 medals (7 gold, 9 silver, and 7 bronze) – this is the best performance of our youth team in the history of performances at European championships!
The Ukrainian Men’s Boxing Championship, which is the main national start of the year for Ukrainian athletes, took place in Odessa on September 6-11. The competition was attended by leading boxers of the country, including members of the National Team of Ukraine, who recently participated in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic tournament. And from September 14 to 18 in Zaporozhye, the national women’s championship of the country took place. The champions and prize-winners of the tournament formed the renewed national team of Ukraine to participate in the 2022 World Cup.
However, the month’s main event in boxing and sports, in general, was the fight at the Tottenham Arena in London between Aleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua. In the presence of more than 60,000 fans, the Ukrainian boxer won a resounding victory by unanimous decision of the judges and became the world champion in the WBA, IBF, WBO, and IBO super heavyweight. For the undefeated Usyk, this “victory” became the 19th in the professional ring. In addition, he became only the third boxer in history to win the heavyweight championship belts and then the super heavyweight.
From 15 to 23 October in Budva (Montenegro) hosted the European Youth Championship, which was attended by 339 boxers from 38 countries. Despite the very high level of competition and strong composition of participants, the youth national team of Ukraine performed extremely strongly and confirmed its status as one of the favorites. Our team won 14 medals, one of the best results of the “blue-yellow” in all the years of performances in these tournaments. We have once again confirmed that we are a strong boxing state!
Seven Ukrainian boxers competed in the finals, and three of them won. Ayder Abduraimov (54 kg) from Kharkov, Bozorboy Matyakubov (67 kg) from Kropyvnytskyi, and Veronika Nakota (70 kg) from Kharkov became the European youth champions.
The World Men’s Championship took place in Belgrade, marked by the triumph of 19-year-old Yuriy Zakhareev! On November 6, the Ukrainian boxer won by a unanimous decision of the judges over the Russian Vadym Musayev and won a gold medal – to the delight of millions of fans of national sports!
On his way to “gold” Yuri won five battles, and the most challenging fight was in the quarterfinals, defeating in a very competitive fight a strong and titled opponent from Kazakhstan, Aslanbek Shimbergenov.
Yuriy Zakhareev‘s gold medal became the seventh for our country at the men’s world championships since Independence. Yuri became the youngest world champion in the history of our state, breaking the record of his compatriot Vasiliy Lomachenko. In addition, Zahareyev won another unique achievement: he became the first athlete in the history of world boxing to win the World Youth Championship and the World Adult Championship in one year!
On December 17, the reporting and election conference of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine took place. Official observers from the International Boxing Association (IBA) and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Ukraine participated in it. Registered delegates of the conference summed up the activities of the FBU for the past period. An important issue on the agenda was the election of the governing bodies of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine. By a unanimous decision of the Conference delegates, Volodymyr Prodivus was elected President of the FBU for the next four years.
A few days earlier, Ukrainian Vasiliy Lomachenko defeated Richard Commey in New York by unanimous judges’ decision – 117-110, 119-108, 119-108 – and won the WBO Intercontinental Champion’s belt!