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The AIBA Youth World Championships, which will be the only qualification event for the Nanjing 2014 Youth Olympics, is the main event in the month of April. One of the best boxing nations in the world currently is Kazakhstan. The country topped the team rankings in the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013, therefore the expectations are higher than ever in the Central Asian nation, as the boxing community watches for indications that the next generation of fighters will be equally potent in the ring.

Fast Facts
What: AIBA Youth World Championships
Where: Sofia, Bulgaria
When: 11-24 April, 2014

The Tension and the Drama:
Kazakhstan topped the team rankings in the 2013 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Almaty last October and also achieved the same result in all of the continental events in 2013 and 2014. Their current youth squad is arguably even stronger than in the last three editions of the championships, which means that Kazakhstan’s future is looking good. Interestingly however, the country has failed to win gold in this age category since AIBA changed the name of the age group from Cadet to Youth in 2008. So the biggest question is, will a Kazakh boxer rise to the top of the podium? And if so who will it be?

Ones to watch:
Abylaykhan Zhussupov was gold medallist at the 2013 AIBA Junior World Championships in Kiev and at the 2013 ASBC Asian Junior Continental Championships. He was awarded the Best Asian Junior Boxer of the Year trophy in 2013 and continued his winning streak as a Youth athlete in both the ASBC Asian Youth Continental Championships in Thailand and the Brandenburg Youth Cup in Germany. He must be considered one of the main contenders in the Lightweight category (60kg).

Elsewhere, Kazakhstan’s 18-year-old Ayan Kalibekov was a gold medallist at the Children of Asia Games in Yakutsk in 2012, and also secured a top place in the ASBC Asian Youth Continental Championships in Bangkok. Therefore his expectations will also be high in Sofia.

Kazakhstan is famous for its Welterweight category (69kg) with the last three Olympic medallists at that weight coming from the country (in the guise of Bakhtiyar Artayev, Bakhyt Sarsekbayev and Serik Sapiyev respectively). Meanwhile, Daniyar Yeleussinov is the current AIBA World Champion in the category. Their hope for the upcoming generation is 17-year-old Rakhat Marzhikpayev who took the gold at the 2013 AIBA Junior World Championships in Kiev and won their selection event in the Nationals. By definition he should be one to watch.

Fact of the tournament
AIBA breaks another of its own participation records at this event with 606 athletes registered to take part in Sofia. Kazakhstan will send the maximum number of three female and ten male boxers to the championships. Four of their participating boxers including Zhussupov and Marzhikpayev will be able to fight in the Youth age group next year as well.

Kazakhstan’s history in the event
Given their strength at elite level Kazakhstan have not really had enough success in the last two editions of the Youth Championships. However, current AIBA World Champion Daniyar Yeleussinov and London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Ivan Dychko both claimed silver medals in Guadalajara in 2008. To a certain extent this also shows that taking gold medals at this age is not necessarily critical for a country to dominate the elite levels of the sport in the future. Nonetheless, Kazakhstan’s last gold medal was achieved by Kanat Ilyasov in Santiago de Cuba in 2002. That is long enough for any successful Kazakh athlete to get significant praise for breaking the “barren” run.