Four leading boxing nations met in the former capital city of Kazakhstan, Almaty, where their best athletes competed in a Round Robin Team Tournament. Present at the event were hosts Kazakhstan, superpower Russia, developing India and powerhouse France.
The Russian and Kazakh squad emerged triumphant in the team event, both nations defeating the Indian and French teams, while the former encounter resulted in a draw. The competition was an active and vital preparation for the boxers before the upcoming Olympic Qualifiers, a chance to improve strength and conditioning through combat.
The recent competition in Almaty brought together some tough contenders and some very interesting fights also. There are always standout performances at such events, but Almaty certainly gave the audience a treat. Most impressively, we saw Kazakhstan's AIBA World Championships bronze medallist and Asian Games silver medallist, Birzhan Zhakipov shine in the light flyweight class in Almaty. The 28-year-old boxer won all three of his contests in the event and it is goes without saying that he now has great expectations to win gold at the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Astana. Another boxer giving us a money for our money was France's Jeremy Beccu, who also displayed excellent skills and performance. Beccu stunningly defeated Russia's AIBA World Championships silver medallist, David Ayrapetyan, in only the second competition day.
In the flyweight division, current AIBA World Champion Misha Aloyan won against France's Nordine Oubaali by a tense and edgy 9:8. Aloyan also beat India's former AIBA Cadet World Champion, Sunil Kumar, but was unable to fight against Kazakhstan's Asian Championships silver medallist 22-year-old llyas Suleymenov.
In an equally remarkable weight class, we witnessed Russia's former AIBA World Champion, Sergey Vodopyanov, who has incidentally already secured his ticket to London, win all three of his disputes in Almaty. Amongst the opponents the Russian bantamweight No.1 defeated was no other than WSB Individual Champion and Beijing Olympian, Kanat Abutalipov of Kazakhstan.
Yet another former AIBA World Champion Russian boxer of note, Albert Selimov, overwhelmed his rivals in the lightweight class. Selimov overshadowed France's London Olympian, Rachid Azzedine, by 11:6 and Kazakhstan's AIBA World Championship bronze medallist, Gani Zhailauov, by a narrow 9:8.
Proving that results are all about hard work and dedication, Kazakhstan's top light welterweight boxer, Asian Games winner Daniyar Yeleussinov, triumphed over his opponents by a large margin of points in Almaty. He was unsuccessful at last year's AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, and was not granted a quota spot for the London Olympics. The 21-year-old local star will therefore need to fight at the upcoming Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament in Astana in April in order to have a chance at a quota place. Considering his fantastic performance in Almaty, one could say Yeleussinov is on the right track for success.
The Kazakh team round off a tremendous performance with no less than their statuesque team captain, Serik Sapiyev. The two-time AIBA World Champion and Asian Games winner, struck back after his recent loss against Russia's Andrey Zamkovoy, overwhelming his European rival by a stinging 14:4. The Olympic gold medal contender, Sapiyev, also defeated France's European Championship silver medallist, Alexis Vastine, by a very comfortable 16:5.
Although Nikolay Khromov, head coach of the Russian squad, has not yet decided who will be representing the middleweight class in the qualification event in Trabzon, Turkey in mid-April, he now undoubtedly has some food for thought. After watching his team fight in Almaty, one of the possible contenders is current European Champion, 24-year-old Maksim Koptyakov, who shone at the event. Koptyakov not only conquered India's Kuldeep Singh, but overpowered France's National Champion, Rachid Hamani, as well as Kazakhstan's AIBA World Championship quarter-finalist, Danabek Suzhanov. Khromov has some undeniable evidence of a more than competent boxer after that show.
The Russian squad only just escaped what would have been a shocking defeat against India's rising star. The newly crowned National Champion, 18-year-old Sumit Sangwan, almost shocked the Russian ringside into submission when fighting against AIBA World Champion, Egor Mekhontsev. The first day of the event saw the two pugilists finish on an incredibly close 9:8. Mekhonstev experienced another close call against Kazakhstan's AIBA World Championship silver medallist, Adilbek Niyazimbetov. The competition is certainly strong this year and the results are difficult to call.
Former AIBA World Champion, Artur Beterbiyev of Russia, demonstrated his extreme power in Almaty, where he stopped India's Asian Games silver medallist Manpreet Singh in his tracks. The last competition day, saw Aleksey Sevostyanov's ringside throw in the towel against Beterbiyev as it was felt the match had become to unequal to continue.
Finally, in the super heavyweight class, Kazakhstan's AIBA World Championship bronze medallist and Asian Games silver medallist, Ivan Dychko, came out victorious, crashing past Russia's current European Champion, Magomed Omarov, in an unsurpassable fashion. The latter, however, defeated France's Youth Olympic Games winner, Tony Yoka, on the second day of the team event. Each team present at the event showed an unfathomable amount of talent and prowess, it will be an interesting one to watch as the athletes move on to the Olympic Qualifiers. We should be sure to see more top class fights as well as some exciting surprises along the way.
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