Belgrade's Aleksandar Nikolic Hall Pionir. EUBC

Just about everything came out golden for Russia in the European Amateur Boxing Championships. Fans did have to sing along the winner’s anthem because of an alleged technical error, but that was it for its boxers in Belgrade, where they took 11 wins from the host country, who totalled only four.

The 46th Men's EUBC and 14th European Women's Boxing Championships dropped the curtain this weekend in the Serb capital, where locals where considered the favourites coming in, with a loaded 24-strong squad and title contender Natalia Shadrina as the headliner in the women’s circuit. Belgrade's Aleksandar Nikolic Hall 'Pionir' hosted the event and the home crowd did manage to witness as many podiums as Russia, though it had less reasons to celebrate.

Indeed, it was Russia who came out on top at the end, as its national team amassed up to 20 medals in the total count. Serbia also had 20, but only four were gold. Russian boxers, who have been banned from competing under their flag in the upcoming Paris 2024 Olympic but were allowed to display their colours in Europe’s highest competition for boxing amateurs, took 11 gold medals, eight silver and one bronze, while the runners-up added three silver and 13 bronze: Turkey came in third on the final podium, with three golds and two bronze.

Edmond Khudoian, Dmitrii Dvali, Eduard Savvin, Vsevolod Shumkov, Gabil Mamedov, Tarkhan Idigov, Sharabutdin Ataev and Muslim Gadzhimagomedov were the victorious Russians who raised their fists on the Belgrade ring. Khudojan beat Armenian Baregham Harutyunyan in the minimum weight (-48kg), as did Dvali with three-time world medallist and defending European champion Billal Bennama, from France, in the bantamweight (-54kg). Savvin and Shumkov defeated their Bulgarian opponents, Javier Ibanez and Radoslav Rosenov, in the featherweight (-57 kg) and lightweight (-60 kg), respectively. Rami Mofid Kiwan would exact retribution for Bulgaria in the men’s 75kg, defeating 2021 world silver medallist Dzhambulat Bizhamov from Russia.

The European Boxing Championships were held at Belgrade's Aleksandar Nikolic Hall Pionir. EUBC
The European Boxing Championships were held at Belgrade's Aleksandar Nikolic Hall Pionir. EUBC

Mamedov won over Alexandru Paraschiv, of Moldova, in the light welterweight (-63.5kg). As for as the heavier classes, it was Idigov, Ataev and Gadzhimagomedov over Georgian fighter Lasha Guruli, Aliaksei Alfiorau, from Belarus, and Narek Manasyan, from Armenia, in the welterweight (-67 kg), cruiserweight (-86 kg) and heavyweight (-92 kg) fights. Idigov once again denied two-time world medallist and European silver medallist Guruli a title on the continent, winning by referee’s stoppage. Spaniard Ghadfa Ayoub claimed the super heavyweight title for the first time by beating Serbian Dusan Veletic, also by referee’s stoppage.

Shadrina, who had won a silver medal at last year's European Games, was hoping for a win in the women's -60kg division and finally met the challenge by beating Nune Asatrian, of Russia, on her way to her first podium at the elite level. Thanks to three consecutive wins by unanimous decision, local hero Sara Cirkovic also claimed the new European crown in the 54 kg weight category, her first gold medal in the elite rank. The former youth world champion and two-time youth European champion qualified for the next Olympic games and was voted best female boxer of the event. Kiwan was awarded the same honour in the men’s ranks after defeating Bizhamov by split decision in the final. The victory, his fourth in a row at the tournament, became official only after the bout review.

Russian Sergey Zhurkin lifted the trophy as the best R&J while his national team dominated the overall ranking on Sunday, the last day competition: three gold medals by the women and an amazing eight among men. The big expectations did not weigh on the squad, and neither, it seems, did the ongoing stream of emotions due to the Olympic ban on athletes from Russia

As was expected, its boxers were openly welcome to compete at the European Championships with no restrictions whatsoever, despite an alleged technical error that surfaced during the medal ceremony for Yulia Chumgalakova, who won against Kristina Nađ Varga in the women’s up-to-48 kg final. As she stood on top of the podium with her country’s flag fully displayed and the anthem blaring through the loudspeakers, the sound faded and fans in assistance, as well as the boxer herself, in tears, improvised and sang along. Organisers explained that the anthem was switched off due to technical reasons.

The Secretary General of the Russian Boxing Federation, Tatyana Kiriyenko had previously explained to the agency TASS that the Russian team would be able to participate in its entirety in the competition, without condition of neutrality and therefore under the national flag and the playing of the national anthem in case of victory during the podium ceremony, as sated by protocol. “We owe it to the rules and decision of the International Boxing Association (IBA),” Kiriyenko underlined. Unlike other bodies in the Olympic movement, the IBA has never banned Russian and Belarusian athletes, nor imposed conditions of neutrality on their participation.

Darima Sandakova, in the up-to-70 kg division, and Elena Gapeshina, in the up-to-81 kg division, were the other two women to taste gold for Russia, while seven others took silver medals. Irish fighter Aoife O’Rourke and Buse Naz Çakıroglu, from Turkey, also shone brightly, as they became three-time gold medallists at the EUBC Championships. O’Rourke came into the tournament unbeaten on the continent since the start of the 2019 European Championships, having also claimed gold at the 2023 European Games. Standing in the way of another title in the women’s 75kg was Russian Anastasiia Shamanova, one of the most successful boxers at youth and junior level. A tight contest would go the way of O’Rourke by a 3-2 split decision.

Expectations were laid heavily on Olympic silver medallist and 2022 World champion Çakıroğlu, who had a stellar record of two European Games titles, two European Championships titles and a silver medal from 2018. The third gold was draped around her neck after a unanimous decision victory over Anastasiia Kool, from Russia, in the women’s 52kg final. Her teammate Busenaz Surmeneli added a European gold to her Olympic and two World crowns in the women’s 66kg final, comfortably beating Russian Albina Moldazhanova.

Up to 337 athletes competed, representing 34 countries, including one IBA neutral team. For the first time ever, men and women shared an elite continental event. Belgrade was host city of two World Championships in its history, in 1978 and 2021, while the next year the Serbian capital city will organise another World Championship among elite women.

At a time when paying athletes has become a point of contention between the International Olympic Committee and organizations like IBA or World Athletics, Russian boxers were awarded cash prizes of $15,000 (€14,000) for winning the tournament, $10,000 (€9,300)  for silver, and $5,000 (€4,600) for bronze.