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The International Boxing Association (AIBA) has launched its new Boxer of the Month project, where a fighter will be appointed the honour each month based on their performances.

After a terrific opening to 2015, Kyrgyzstan’s ASBC Asian Continental Champion Azat Usenaliev has been named January’s Boxer of the Month due to his excellent performance at the start of the fifth season of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) where he memorably defeated the previously undefeated Andrew Selby.

Usenaliev’s early career in boxing
Azat Usenaliev was born in the city of Tokmak on 11th September in 1991, and began boxing very early at the age of 10.

The talented youngster won the Kyrgyz Cadet National Boxing Championships in 2007, while his first international event outside of Kyrgyzstan was the AIBA Cadet World Boxing Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan in September 2007.

Usenaliev’s name became known to the wider boxing world at the 2009 ASBC Asian Continental Championships in Zhuhai, China where he defeated Uzbekistan’s more experienced athlete, Rafikjon Sultanov.

Following that event, he received the right to compete at the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Milan, at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou and at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, gaining valuable experience during the early stages of his career.

In the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifiers he met with Kazakhstan’s strong favourite Ilyas Suleimenov and their preliminary contest was one of the best in the whole competition in Astana.

After an engrossing bout, Suleimenov was the winner, but Usenaliev proved he could compete at the highest level, and his failure to qualify for London 2012 has given him excellent motivation in the current Rio 2016 Olympic era.

Usenaliev’s Flyweight success
Usenaliev was a medal contender before the 2013 ASBC Asian Continental Championships, and his top rivals in Kazakhstan’s AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifiers winner Ilyas Suleimenov and Philippines’ Asian Games gold medallist Rey Saludar were both eliminated in the previous stage of the championships.

The Kyrgyz flyweight (52 kg) boxer had an exceptional tournament, and defeated Uzbekistan’s tough Shakhobiddin Zoirov in the final of the competition, which resulted in the first ever gold medal for Kyrgyzstan in the history of the Asian Championships since 1993 when the Central Asian country joined the continent’s boxing life.

Usenaliev then competed in the fourth season of the World Series of Boxing as a member of the Ukraine Otamans franchise, and won three out of his four contests losing only to the Welsh two-time European Champion star Andrew Selby.

His overall record saw him named at number four in the individual ranking of the Flyweight class (52 kg).

Following his WSB duties, Usenaliev travelled to the Sidney Jackson Memorial Tournament to Tashkent as part of the Kyrgyz national team in mid May, and advanced to the final after beating Uzbekistan’s Shakhobiddin Zoirov in the semi-final once again.

The most anticipated fight of the whole tournament was expected in the final between Usenaliev and Uzbekistan’s AIBA World Boxing Championships silver medallist Jasurbek Latipov, but Lapitov could not compete in the final match due to injury.

Usenaliev travelled to the Incheon 2014 Asian Games to Korea as a gold medal contender but following his excellent start he was injured against Pakistan’s Commonwealth Games silver medallist Muhammad Waseem after just 28 seconds of their quarter-final contest.

A determined Usenaliev has taken his successful, but frustrating 2014 and used his energies wisely by increasing his training ahead of a very important year.

“I have been training twelve times per week from Monday until Saturday to be the best boxer in my weight class, and Sunday is my lone rest day when I am with my family in the city of Tokmak. I like using my footwork during fights to launch quick counter-attacks. I am following the instruction of my coach but his is my style and I like it,” said the boxer,

Usenaliev comes of age in January 2015
On January 23rd 2015, the Acco International Center in Kiev was the venue for a titanic tussle between Ukraine Otamans and British Lionhearts, which began with one of the biggest shocks in the history of the World Series of Boxing (WSB).

British Lionhearts Flyweight (52 kg) and two-time AIBA World Championships medalist Andrew Selby entered his match with Azat Usenaliev having defeated him last season, while also defending a 9-0 WSB record, and a reputation as one of the best fighters in the world.

Four rounds later, Selby’s undefeated record was destroyed after he was pulled out after an eye injury.

Selby still would have lost had he managed to finish the bout, as he was behind by large margins on every scorecard, and Usenaliev deserves many plaudits for his excellent performance, including the AIBA boxer of the month award.