Serbia, EUBC European Boxing Championships favourites on home soil. IBA

For the first time ever, men and women will share an elite continental event. The meeting in Belgrade will end on the 28th of April. 378 boxers will gather at the Aleksandar Nikolić Hall "Pionir". Vakhid Abbasov is one of the title contenders, as is local boxer Natalia Shadrina.

Serbia are the favourites for the medals at the EUBC Elite Men's and Women's Boxing Championships. Belgrade's Aleksandar Nikolić Hall "Pionir" will host the event. Three outstanding stars from the local team will be competing for the titles. Vakhid Abbasov is the most prominent of the 24-strong squad. 

His aim is to defend his European title from 2022. He won silver at the European Games in Poland a year ago. Boxing at 67kg, he will face stiff opposition from Georgia's Lasha Guruli. Guruli is a two-time world champion and silver medallist at the European Championships and European Games.

It will be the first EUBC Elite European Boxing Championships where men and women will compete together. That's why Serbia's Natalia Shadrina will be in the betting for a win in the women's -60kg division. Shadrina won a silver medal at last year's European Games, but has yet to stand on the podium at this level. 

A total of 378 boxers will gather in Belgrade. GETTY IMAGES
A total of 378 boxers will gather in Belgrade. GETTY IMAGES

However, this is a very competitive weight class and one of Ireland's best boxers will be competing in it. Kellie Harrington is the Olympic, European and European Games champion and the 2018 World champion. The Irishwoman is one of the favourites to win the title in Belgrade.

In the men's -75kg category, Almir Memic will be aiming for a podium finish after graduating from the junior ranks and winning two bronze medals at the European U22 Championships in 2022 and 2023. Russia's Dzhambulat Bizhamov will be looking to add a European crown to his silver medal from the 2021 IBA Men's World Boxing Championships.

France will bring a talented squad to Belgrade, with three-time world medallist and defending European champion Billal Bennama aiming for gold at 54kg. In the men's 92kg, Tokyo 2020 medallists Loren Alfonso, representing Azerbaijan, and Muslim Gadzhimagomedov of Russia will battle it out. Both have won world titles: Alfonso in 2021 at 86kg and Gadzhimagomedov in 2019 and 2023.

A picture from the previous EUBC European Championship in Yerevan in 2022. GETTY IMAGES
A picture from the previous EUBC European Championship in Yerevan in 2022. GETTY IMAGES

The list of favourites continues with another medallist from Tokyo, Buse Naz Çakıroğlu. She will be looking for her third gold medal at the European Championships, this time in the women's -52kg category. Her Turkish team-mate Busenaz Surmeneli, the Olympic and two-time World champion, will be looking for her first European title. She has won bronze at the last two editions.

Bulgaria's Svetlana Staneva, two-time European silver medallist and World bronze medallist, and Ireland's Michaela Walsh, two-time European bronze medallist, will face each other in the women's -57kg category. Both will be looking for their first European title.

Finally, Aoife O'Rourke, like Çakıroğlu, will be aiming for a third European gold medal in the women's -75kg category. She will be up against young prodigies Anastasiia Shamonova of Russia and Lithuania's Gabriele Stonkute, the 2022 World and European champion who won both titles in the heavier 81kg category.
There are a total of 378 boxers representing 30 nations. The event, which opened last Thursday, will run until 28 April.