Algeria’s light-middleweight Mohamed Mekhelouf settled for silver as India’s two-time world champion Nikhat Zareen (pictured) suffered a shocking defeat in the finals of Strandja Memorial tournament on Sunday, February 11, in Sofia, Bulgaria.
Mekhelouf lost 5-0 to Uzbekistan’s 2017 World Championships silver medallist and 2018 Asian Games champion Ikboljon Kholdarov whose vast experience was evident as he dominated Algeria’s newcomer to the big stage.
The North Africans finished the tournament with an impressive one silver and four bronze medals won by minimumweight Kamel Khennousi, welterweight Abdenacer Benlaribi, middleweight Abderaouf Ghazli Ahmed and light-heavyweight Mohamed Houmri.
Mekhelouf becomes the third Algerian to make it to the finals of the prestigious Strandja Memorial tournament after two-time Africa light-flyweight champion Roymaysa Boualam and 2022 World Championships silver medallist and Africa light-welterweight gold medallist in Maputo Imane Khelif who won gold in the 2021 Strandja Memorial with Boualam bagging silver.
The five medals won by Algeria were a significant improvement from last year’s Strandja Memorial in which they collected two bronze medals courtesy of minimumweight Fatiha Mansouri and Boualam.
India’s two-time world champion and reigning Commonwealth Games light-flyweight queen Nikhat Zareen was aiming for her third gold medal in the Strandja Memorial but Uzbekistan’s former Asia Junior champion Sabina Bobokulova blew up her ambition by squeezing a narrow but a shocking 3-2 victory over the celebrated Indian boxer who left it late against the aggressive Uzbekistan pugilist who started the fight at a breakneck pace, giving Zareen little room to implement her fight plan.
The other world champions to fall by the wayside were Kazakhstan’s world minimumweight champion Sanzhar Tashkenbay and India’s female middleweight champion Lovlina Borgohain. Uzbekistan’s decorated 2016 Olympic gold medallist and the reigning world flyweight champion Hasanboy Dusmatov did not appear for his semi-final bout against compatriot Khujanazar Nortojiev who sailed to the final on a walkover to win gold with a 3-2 decision against defending bantamweight champion Yasen Radev of Bulgaria.
India’s Borgohain, who’s also the Olympic bronze medallist, was sent packing in the quarter-finals by Ireland’s European Games middleweight champion Aoife O’ Rourke who went on to hand China’s two-time Olympic medallist a bitter defeat in the semi-finals, and in the finals she beat Thailand’s Asian U22 champion Baison Manikon, the teenage talent who was influenced by his father to take up Thailand’s kickboxing discipline, Muay Thai, to improve her asthma condition. She went on to take part in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Credit: AFBC Communications