FINAL DAY of the 2016 European Championships!

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Almost six hours of excitement and emotion and the final day of the EMF European Championships is somehow passed.

We had 14 fights, running in just one ring so the spectators could focus completely on this one set of special fights. Bouts were intersperse with medal ceremonies, beautifully organized with women dressed in traditional Croatian outfits carrying the medals.

Winners posed in front of colourful banners, including the logo for The World Games  – up to eleven of today’s champions will compete for their country in July at the 2017 Wroclaw Games. Finals are always a bitter-sweet event as they are both the main focus of the week and a sign that this event is coming to an end.

New friendships are forged in the excitement of competition, and you can really see this at the end of the fights when people rush around posing for photographs in international groups. The red podiums were of course popular for these shots; everyone can be a champion for a moment!

First in the ring was Funda Alkayis from Turkey against Galina Popova from Russia. This was a tight competition with the crowd from the both countries setting a high standard for the outside-the-ring contest! Alkayis fought hard using solid left hand and low-kick combinations, preferring to work on the outside. However Popova drew the fight into the inside where her grappling skills and strong right hand eventually won the day, taking results on points.

Next up was Belarus Katsiaryna Vandaryeva vs Portugal’s Maria Lobo. In this Lobo took a points victory by staying outside and firing in rapid punch and low leg-leg kick combinations. Vandaryeva was dominating in the grapple but after the first round was unable to maintain that position.

Bout three saw the first of the men’s contests with France’s Clement Adrover taking on Roman Vagilevych Ukraine at 54kgs. Vagilevych really pulled out all the stops scoring with a terrific spinning back elbow in the second round but they were so evenly matched points were being scored by both right to the end.

The third round was the most exciting with both going for it in the clinch, but after Ukraine scored with some technical body-kicks, the result could only go one way.

Fight four was between Belarus Marya Valent and Isa Tidblad Keskikangas Sweden in the last women’s final of the day, most of the women’s finals have been concluded on Friday. This was, as the crowd by now expected, an even contest with both athletes very evenly matched. Valent’s husband Dmitry who would compete in bout number 10 was watching closely from the stands. The result on points went to Sweden with the final round seeing her throw ‘a superman punch’ followed by a great series of knees, which Valent responded to well but just not well enough.

In the fifth bout old rivals Russia Alexsandr Abramov faced off against Belarus Eduard Mikhovich at 57kgs  – this fight started hard from the first bell with both going straight in with fast knees – always a crowd-pleaser! The result on points went to Russia.

Israel’s Itai Gayer took on Raman Dounar from Belarus in the sixth bout at 63.5kgs. These two boxers had very different styles with Gayer taking a deceptively relaxed approach. He won on points in spite of Dounar battling back with swift punch combinations, both men using knees in the inside and longer range to good effect.

The seventh bout saw Belarus again in the ring with Dzmitry Varats taking on Ali Batmaz from Turkey this time – and as always when Turkey fights the crowd was ‘the second man’ in the arena. He put up a spirited defence but was unable to match Varats in going forward ultimately, and Belarus took the gold on points.

The eighth match between Sweden’s Jonas Andersson and Belarus Andrei Kulebin was an entertaining fight, with both putting on their best. Kulebin took the title on points.

The ninth bout saw two of the larger teams facing each other Poland’s Dawid Mirkowski taking on Stanislav Perzhanovskyi from Ukraine. A very close fight, Perzhanovskyi took the result eventually 29-28. Each round is scored out of ten for a maximum score of 30 so this result means Poland won one round but was pipped at the post in two.

The tenth fight between Dmitry Valent Belarus and Karpych Rsotyslav from Ukraine saw a series of long push-kicks from both athletes with Rsotyslav following with some swift left-hand work. However Valent really used long knees to control the ring, and took the Champion’s title on points. As Valent has already qualified for The World Games, this means an 81kgs spot still lies open.

The eleventh bout marked the final The World Games qualifying bout for the day with Germany’s Jakub Styben taking on Ivan Pentka from Russia at 91kgs. This was another intense bout with Russia taking the win by just one point to the devastation of the German support.  Styben chased that point very hard in the final round, but it was not to be.

Fight number 12 saw local boy Roko Dozdo taking on Portugal’s Bruno Almeida. Another close battle this time in the B-division, the win on points went to the Portuguese athlete.

Bout 13 was between Russia’s Mikhail Sartakov and Czech Republic’s Jakub Klaud – both inside and outside the ring. The Russian team at these championships was much larger but the Czech’s made up for this by cheering ever louder with their flag in full flight. And it must have made the difference with Klaud taking the win by one crucial point.

The fourteenth and final bout of the day was between France and Sweden, with the points victory going to Swede Simon Ogolla over Amine Kebi in the 91+kgs division.

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