Africa boxing registered its best ever performance at the IBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. The continent collected a total of five medals – three silver and two bronze – in this year’s tournament which ended Friday, May 20, in Istanbul, Turkey.
It’s the first time boxers from Algeria and Mozambique have won medals in the Women’s World Boxing Championships. Previously, Africa had won a total of four bronze medals; through Egypt’s Samiha Hassan (two bronze) and the other two by Tunisia’s Rim Jouini and Morocco’s Khadija Mardi.
Algeria’s light welterweight sensation Imane Khelif, Mozambique’s light middleweight Alcinda Panguana and Moroccan heavyweight Khadija Mardi, won the three silver medals. Algeria’s Ichrak Chaib and Mozambique’s Rady Gramane settled for bronze medals in the welterweight and middleweight divisions respectively.
Chaib was outpointed by a split decision score of 3-2 by Canada’s Charlie Cavanagh in the semi-finals while Gramane lost 5-0 on points to Tammara Thibeault of Canada in the middleweight semis.
After a sparkling show in her earlier bouts leading to the finals, Khelif was favored to win gold. In the semifinals, Khelif, a gold medalist in the 2020 Africa Olympic qualifiers in Dakar, Senegal, defeated Chelsey Heijnen of the Netherlands 5-0 on points.
However, she met her match in Irish southpaw Amy Broadhurst who beat her 5-0 on points. It was Broadhurst’s first world title, after four quarterfinal losses in the Women’s World Boxing Championships.
Following a 4-0 points win over Kazakhstan’s Valentina Khalsova in the semis, Panguana was outpointed 4-1 in the finals by Ireland’s Lisa O’Rourke in the light middleweight division.
Heavyweight Mardi, a 2019 African Games middleweight champion, survived a second round knockdown against Turkish southpaw Sennur Demir, who floored her with a left cross en route to defeating the Moroccan boxer 4-1 on points to claim her first gold at the age of 39. Demir previously won silver in the 2018 World Championships and bronze in 2016.
Africa entered 43 boxers from 12 countries, and at the round of 16, eight of them had won their fights.
Out of the eight winners, Morocco’s minimumweight Yasmine Mouttaki, light flyweight Boumaysa Bovalam of Algeria and lightweight Jocelyn Tshamala of the Democratic Republic of Congo were eliminated in the last 16.
Senegal’s light welterweight Mariatou Diallo and Kenya’s welterweight Everlyn Akinyi, both of whom received byes to the last 16, were also eliminated.
Ring analysts attribute the success of the five African boxers to their respective federations and governments investing in them. Prior to the World Championships, boxers such as Khelif, Panguana and Gramane took part in major European tournaments. Khelif won three gold medals in some of the tournaments in Europe, one of her gold medals won at the Nation’s Cup in Bulgaria.
Gramane and Panguane took part in the Bocskai Memorial tournament in Hungary with Gramane winning silver. The president of Mozambique Boxing Federation, Gabriel Junior, pointed out that, unlike most African countries, his federation does not rely on the government for financial support.
Mozambique is the first sub-Saharan African country to win medals at the Women’s World Boxing Championships.
“My federation is self-sufficient. We don’t go to the government for financial assistance,” Gabriel said. “We are even planning overseas training for our boxers who will represent us in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham this year from the end of July. We will finance everything. If the government wants to chip in fine but we can’t beg from them.”
On the medals table, Algeria and Mozambique shared the 10th position with Brazil, Italy and Poland. They all had a silver and bronze each. Morocco finished 15th with Panama, Columbia and Romania – each one of them with one silver medal.
Hosts Turkey emerged on top, collecting five gold and two bronze medals. They were followed by Ireland who won two gold medals. Third place Canada finished with one gold and one silver. India was fourth with one gold and two bronze medals. In fifth place was USA, Lithuania and Chinese Taipei, each with one gold.
Turkey’s first ever boxer to win an Olympic gold medal, welterweight Busenaz Surmeneli, retained her world title and in the process was declared the best boxer following her dominant show over Canada’s Charlie Cavanagh whom she stopped in the third round after subjecting her to three standing counts.