Christopher Simmons, of Angier, took the bronze medal, winning third place in Vrbas, Serbia, in the third annual Junior Nations’ Cup this summer.
The tournament was held from Aug. 12-19 in Serbia and consisted of Junior Boys and Girls (15-16 years of age). It is organized under the International Boxing Association and is considered by many the most difficult tournament for this age group in the world. The tournament was attended by over 30 countries from around the world.
Simmons received a bye the first day of competition. In the second day he won a split decision over Janicek Urek of Slovakia. It was a hard-fought bout, with Urek being physically much bigger than Simmons, but Simmons overpowered him physically.
“He was the biggest guy I ever fought,” Simmons said of Urek. “He looked like he was 130 pounds. He looked like a giant, so I had to chop him down.”
Simmons beat Urek around the ring and won the admiration of the Serbian people. He quickly became a fan favorite, and you could hear the people cheering “Chris-to-pher, Chris-to-pher, Chris-to-pher” in the arena. Usually, fans cheer for fighters from their home nation, but many from other countries cheered Simmons as he fought.
Simmons advanced to the semifinals to fight Ruslan Kuzeubayev of Kazakhstan. Simmons was game in the competition, but Kuzeubayev was much stronger and aggressive in the bout. Simmons lost by unanimous decision, and Kuzeubayev went on to win the gold medal.
Chris Simmons, father and coach of Christopher Simmons, stated, “This was a great experience, and Christopher was the youngest competitor at 15 years of age in his weight class (52kg). All the other competitors were 16, and this was their last year competing. Christopher looked really strong and I am very happy with his performance. We are excited to take third place against the strongest international teams on the planet.”
“It was very humbling to see those huge teams come in from Russsia, India and Kazakhstan,” the younger Simmons said. “Those teams were so big and everything about them was intimidating, but we remembered our experience.”
Simmons won the Imperium Coupe in Canada in 2016, but this tournament was something entirely different. According to coach Simmons, they had never seen this level of competition and look forward to boxing more internationally.
The younger Simmons said that he was happy with the outcome and enjoyed his experience in Serbia.
“I will forever hold a place in my heart for the Serbian people, because they adopted us as one of their own,” he said. “My father got sick, and their team brought him juices. They helped us train and stay ready for the event. They cheered for me like I was a local competing in the competition. It was unreal. I was treated like a celebrity and took pictures with the Serbian people for the whole time I was there. I felt famous and admired by the people.”
“They were so nice and hospitable,” said the elder Simmons. “We look forward to bringing home the gold medal to the U.S. next year.”