It is almost two month now since the close of the London 2012 Olympic Games where 286 world class boxers took to the ring in what proved to be one of the most fiercely contested competitions in recent history. Thirteen athletes took home gold whilst two were awarded best boxer trophies. One man stood out from 250, Welterweight (69kg) master Serik Sapiyev of Kazakhstan, who took home the top prize as well as the Val Barker Trophy.
Two-time AIBA World Champion Serik Sapiyev continued Kazakhstan's winning ways at Welterweight (69kg) after the success that began at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games when Bakhtiyar Artayev claimed the gold medal before Bakhyt Sarsekbayev triumphed in Beijing four years later.
National team Captain Serik Sapiyev was born in Abay on 16 November 1983, his uncle was a famous boxer in the former Soviet Union and his father enrolled him in to a boxing school early on. He took up the sport at the age of 11 and ever since has been trained by his coach Aleksandr Strelnikov.
Sapiyev bypassed the cadet or junior national squads to go straight to the elite level in 2002. The then young Lightweight (60kg) boxer won his first international event in Bulgaria a year later before his real breakthrough came as he won the gold medal at the 2004 University World Championships, just after the Athens Olympics.
He then travelled to the 2005 AIBA World Championships to Mianyang, China, having gone a whole year unbeaten and proved his pedigree with a string of sensational performances. He dominated his semi-final against Azerbaijan's Emil Maherramov before storming the final against Uzbekistani toughman Dilshod as he claimed his first World title.
Following his crowning, he was defeated by Thailand's Manus Boonjumnong in the semi-final of the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar. Sapiyev though came back stronger to defend his title at the 2007 AIBA World Championships in Chicago. The then Light Welterweight (64kg) fighter stopped Japan's Masatsugu Kawachi before overwhelming Russia's Gennadiy Kovalev to once again claim gold.
As a result, Serik Sapiyev was named 2007 athlete of the year in Kazakhstan and competed at the 2008 Beijing Olympics as one of the favourites. Sapiyev came into the tournament full of confidence however he was defeated in the quarter-finals by eventual winner Manus Boonjumnong of Thailand.
The 179cm tall boxer then moved up a weight class to compete at Welterweight and quickly found his feet in his new surroundings as he won the 2009 Asian Championships in Zhuhai, China. Later that year, at the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Milan, Sapiyev had to content himself with a bronze medal after he advanced to the semi-finals and lost in a thriller against Russia' Andrey Zamkovoy.
Following his unexpected loss at the 2010 Kazak National Championships where Rustam Svayev triumphed over him, Sapiyev came back once again to win his first Asian Games title at Welterweight in Guangzhou. The skilful Sapiyev was building momentum now and he went on to secure a silver medal at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku with that runner-up place giving him a fourth medal at this event.
The counterpunching southpaw travelled to the London 2012 Olympics with his sights firmly set on the top prize. He did not disappoint as he lit up the competition in the British capital. Sapiyev eliminated Japan's Yasuhiro Suzuki and Gabriel Maestre of Venezuela before gaining his revenge on Russia's Andrey Zamkovoy and finally triumphing over Great Britain's European Champion Fred Evans to claim goal in a dazzling display of skill and power.
The Boxing Center in Karaganda, where he trains, was renamed in his honour following his Olympic glory. After the name was unveiled by Karaganda region delegate Mr. Abelgazi Kusainov, Sapiyev declared, "This victory is 17 years of hard work with my coach Aleksandr Strelnikov, who has been the most influential person in my career. I am very happy that my name will forever be imprinted on the history of the Karaganda region and of course I would like to be able put something back and help the next generation of boxers to make it."
Sapiyev has had a stellar career and claiming both the gold medal and the Val Barker Trophy at the London 2012 Olympic Games was a feat beyond his wildest dreams but after years battling across the world, he had found that maturity to do the business on the biggest stage of all. He will now be assessing his future and we hope to see him back in the ring very soon.
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