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Azerbaijan’s junior international boxing tournament, the Heydar Aliyev Cup was just completed in the city of Baku. The Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup is known as the strongest competition in this age group in the entire world therefore all of the top boxing nations such as Russia, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan feature in the competition with their best line-ups. The host nation claimed five gold medals and topped the team rankings in front of delighted local fans.

Bout of the finals
Kazakhstan’s defending Junior National Champion Sadreddin Akhmedov won the Visotskiy Junior Tournament in Russia last March in the Featherweight class (57 kg). The 16-year-old Akhmedov moved up a weight class and it was no surprise to see him advance to the final of the Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup. His opponent in the final was Russia’s Pavel Makhatayev, who will still be in the junior age group in 2015. Akhmedov’s quick combinations and strong jabs surprised the Russian boxer in this Lightweight class (60 kg) final and Akhmedov was declared the winner by unanimous decision.

Team of the finals
Azerbaijan won five out of the six finals in which they participated at the Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup. EUBC European Schoolboys Champion Umud Rustamov had to miss the competition due to a hand injury but the host nation nevertheless managed to top the team rankings in Baku.
Azerbaijan’s first gold medal was achieved by Malik Hasanov who walked over to the gold as Kyrgyzstan’s new sensation Yryskeldy Borsokbayev had to withdraw ahead of the fight. Azerbaijan’s Ramazan Abdullayev, who trains with the WSB team Azerbaijan Baku Fires, narrowly beat Uzbekistan’s Junior National Champion Bakhruz Rakhmonov
The third gold medal for Azerbaijan was claimed by the unexpected Elton Mammadov in the Light Bantamweight class (52 kg). Azerbaijan’s EUBC European Schoolboys Championships silver medallist Parviz Guliyev, who fought in the Featherweight class (57 kg) last year, had since moved up two weight classes and he secured the host nation’s fourth gold medal. Azerbaijan’s last finalist was Junior National Champion Shamil Safaraliyev who had to face Russia’s Yuriy Boyarkin, whose weight advantage did not suffice to overcome Safaraliyev’s fighting spirit and attacking style. The Russian boxer could not stop Safaraliyev’s attacks and one of the lethal punches caused the end of the bout in the final of the Super Heavyweight class (+80 kg), as the ringside doctor called off the fight before the final bell.

Surprise of the finals
Hungary’s southpaw Istvan Szaka was quarter-finalist in the last edition of the AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships in Kyiv and did not lose any contests on national level. He defeated most of his main rivals in Baku such as Georgia’s Giorgi Mansuvadze and AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Serik Temirzhanov in the semi-final. The 15-year-old Hungarian Light Bantamweight (52 kg) athlete dominated the first round of the final against Azerbaijan’s Elton Mammadov. The Hungarian boxer, who some say has a comparable style to former AIBA Junior World Champion Pal Bedak, attacked from the very beginning but Mammadov was quick to successfully modify his tactical approach, thus eventually registering a close triumph. Mammadov’s victory in the final was certainly the biggest surprise during the Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup.

Ones to watch in the future
Russia’s Elzhan Eyniyev, born in 1999 and thus still eligible for the 2015 AIBA Junior World Boxing Championships, won their Junior National Championships in the Pinweight class (46 kg), Eyniyev’s used his longer arms to keep his opponent from Kazakhstan, Rustam Khamidov -silver medallist at the Visotskiy Junior Tournament in Russia in March – at distance and won by unanimous decision against the Central Asian hope who showed a very aggressive style. Turkmenistan’s Mukhammet Berdibayev was silver medallist in the last edition of the ASBC Asian Junior Continental Championships in Shymkent, Kazakhstan, but he is still in this age group and demonstrated top boxing skills in Baku. His opponent in the final of the Featherweight class (57 kg) was Russia’s Junior National Championships bronze medallist, Volgograd-based Anatoliy Zhirnov. The southpaw Russian boxer could not get close enough to the Asian boxer in the first round and Berdibayev’s longer arm span determined their bout. Zhirnov tried to stop his opponent’s progression with body shots in the final round but Berdibayev managed to keep him at bay to earn the gold medal in Baku, making it the first ever title for Turkmenistan in the history of the competition.

Fact/stat of the tournament
Altogether 150 boxers competed in the Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, a competition reserved for boxers born in 1998 and 1999. Egypt, Finland and Latvia were present for this edition and it was the very first time that four out of the five Central Asian nations sent boxers to Baku.
EUBC European Junior Champion Aleksandr Dokvadze had claimed the gold medal in Baku in 2010, his compatriot Giorgi Kharabadze had won the last edition of the Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup and it was now Nikolas Begadze who continued Georgia’s winning path in Baku this year. The new Heavyweight (80 kg) athlete defeated his Hungarian and Uzbek titles and bagged his first international tournament title.

Quote of the tournament
“I am happy to win my first ever international tournament outside of Turkmenistan. My coach told me what the weak points of my final opponent were and I tried to follow his strict instructions in my gold medal bout. This allowed me to beat a strong Russian opponent in the final contest and win the gold in Baku. I hope I can continue my career with further gold medals in the near future,” said Turkmenistan’s 16-year-old Mukhammet Berdibayev after his victory in the Heydar Aliyev Junior Cup.