Hamburg’s Sporthalle was taken over by world-class boxing for one last session of the AIBA World Championships on Saturday night, with ten Champions crowned from five countries. At the end of a tournament that had seen 243 athletes from 75 countries competing for the sport’s most prestigious title, it proved to be a golden night for the Cuban team as they left with five golds, while Azerbaijan, France, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan took home one gold medal each.
Light Flyweight (49kg)
Joahnys Argilagos is once again the Light Flyweight World Champion, the Cuban‘s hand raised after three breathtaking rounds against Uzbekistan’s Olympic Champion Hasanboy Dusmatov got Finals Day underway in grand style in Hamburg. It was a typically flamboyant display by Argilagos with a lightning-fast start from two brilliant boxers using the whole of the ring to deliver their craft. Ultimately, it was Argilagos’ nimble attacks that saw the 20-year-old edge the tightest of split decisions.
The Uzbek and Cuban teams then returned to their respective corners for the second bout of the night as Yosbany Veitia of Cuba and Uzbek Jasurbek Latipov came into the ring to box for the Flyweight World title. Veitia looked to dominate the centre of the ring and control the bout, with Latipov content to launch rapid counters when the rare opportunity presented itself. The openings became fewer as the Cuban seized the initiative, and it was a unanimous decision that eventually took Veitia to gold.
In the Bantamweight final, Kazakhstan’s Kairat Yeraliyev once again faced the man who already beat him earlier in the year in Germany’s Chemistry Cup, USA’s Duke Ragan. This time around it was Yeraliyev who managed to limit his opponent’s attacks in the opening round, before the sole American to reach the finals at the end of an excellent team campaign came back into the bout. It was to be Yeraliyev who conjured up the stronger finish to edge the split decision and earn the gold.
The rebuilding of the French team after Rio 2016 has continued to centre around Lightweight talent and Olympic silver medallist Sofiane Oumiha, and it was another excellent campaign that saw him reach the Final in Hamburg. Standing in his way on Saturday, however, was Lazaro Alvarez, one of Cuba’s all-time greats and a man one bout from an incredible fourth straight World title. The Frenchman began the stronger but Alvarez ended the first round one on top, only for Oumiha to reassert himself on the bout in the second round and go on to record a brilliant unanimous points win.
Light Welterweight (64kg)
A brilliant Light Welterweight Final then unravelled between Uzbekistan’s Ikboljon Kholdarov and Cuba’s Andy Cruz, two technically excellent boxers who clearly thrived on the big stage as they delivered three rounds of pure entertainment. Cruz has truly found his home at Light Welterweight, and despite Kholdarov’s incredible evasive manoeuvres, it was the Cuban who found the perfect range and rhythm to deliver himself a richly deserved gold.
Uzbekistan’s Shakhram Giyasov, had been in sparkling form heading to the Welterweight gold medal match with Cuba’s potent Roniel Iglesias, and the pair delivered another top-quality bout for the packed Sporthalle crowd. It was Giyasov who looked the more comfortable throughout, and as Iglesias tried to salvage something from the final, the Uzbek star pounced, his rapid-fire combinations ensuring a unanimous win for the new World Champion.
Kazakhstan newcomer Abilkhan Amankul and the tough Oleksandr Khyznhiak then put on a Middleweight (75kg) masterclass for the crowds, the Ukrainian’s relentless attacks gradually taking their toll on Amankul. With the Kazakh never allowed to settle into a groove long enough to mount a challenge, it was Khyznhiak’s hand that was raised as World Champion, a win that also earned him the Boxer of the Tournament.
Light Heavyweight (81kg)
The second Cuban in line for a fourth World title at the start of the day, Light Heavyweight (81kg) Julio Cesar La Cruz met Ireland’s three-time EUBC Champion Joe Ward in a repeat of the 2015 World Championship Final in Doha. Typically assured, the Cuban proved a typically hard target for Ward, and despite enjoying some successful periods, the Irishman struggled to land enough punches to prevent a unanimous win and fourth World title going to the irrepressible Julio Cesar La Cruz.
An eagerly awaited Heavyweight Final saw Russia’s World and Olympic Champion Evgeny Tishchenko face Cuba’s Erislandy Savon in another repeat of the 2015 Final in Doha. This time it was Savon’s jab that found most success, exploiting the moments that Tishchenko left himself uncharacteristically open, and the Cuban was able to hold off his opponent’s late surge to earn the split decision and the title of World Champion he has been chasing.
Super Heavyweight (+91kg)
Kazakhstan’s Kamshybek Kunkabayev and Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov then took to the ring for the Super Heavyweight Final, the Azeri setting out for his third World Championship gold in four attempts. He set about his task with the focus of a man determined to become the first Azeri boxer in history to win three AIBA World titles, and it was Majidov who landed the more eye-catching blows. Kunkabayev was rocked by some heavy right crosses from which he wasn’t able to recover his composure, leaving Majidov to once again be crowned Champion as a superb competition in Hamburg came to a close.
During the closing ceremony, the German Boxing Federation handed the AIBA flag to Umar Kremliov, General Secretary of the Russian Boxing Federation, who will oversee the 2019 edition of the World Championships in the beautiful city of Sotchi.
Nine nations into the Finals as ten bouts complete superb penultimate day at 2017 AIBA World Championships
Friday’s ten Semi-Finals saw the gold-medal line-up completed for Saturday evening, with memorable bouts at Flyweight (52kg), Lightweight (60kg), Welterweight (69kg), Light Heavyweight (81kg) and Super Heavyweight (+91kg)
ROUND ONE: On course for four?
The ever-impressive Cuban duo Julio Cesar La Cruz (81kg) and Lazaro Alvarez (60kg) remain on course for their fourth successive World titles. The two have dominated their weight categories since winning golds at Baku 2011, and victory on Saturday would put them on an equal footing with Juan Hernandez Sierra, the second most decorated Cuban boxer of all time behind only the great Felix Savon’s six titles.
ROUND TWO: Time to shine
Both Irish Light Heavyweight (81kg) Joe Ward and Uzbekistan’s Welterweight (69kg) Shakhram Giyasov have recently made it to the finals of the biggest competitions. Two years ago at the World Championships in Doha, Ward lost to Julio Cesar La Cruz to win silver. Last year, Giyasov lost to Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Yeleussinov in the Rio 2016 Olympic Final, and now he too has the chance to win a major gold, against Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias in Hamburg.
ROUND THREE: Back for good
Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov has been here before. World Champion in 2011 and 2013, he did not make it to Doha to defend his Almaty title. Two years on, the 30-year-old is ready to join a select group of boxers to have won three World titles, with the tough challenge of Kazakhstan’s Kamshybek Kunkabayev still standing in his way.
Finalists confirmed at five weights after first day of World Championship Semi-Finals underlines the talent on show in Hamburg
Thursday evening’s Light Flyweight (49kg), Bantamweight (56kg), Light Welterweight (64kg), Middleweight (75kg) and Heavyweight (91kg) bouts confirmed the first finalists who will go for gold in Hamburg on Saturday.
THREE ROUNDS FROM DAY SIX:
ROUND ONE: First timers
On Thursday, no fewer than three newcomers to the unique pressures of the AIBA World Championships made it through to the Final on debut to contest the gold medal. At Bantamweight (56kg), the USA’s Duke Ragan overcame a spirited challenge from India’s Gaurav Bidhuri, Uzbek Light Welterweight (64kg) Ikboljon Kholdarov defeated Ragan’s talented teammate Freudis Rojas, and Kazakhstan Middleweight (75kg) Abilkhan Amankul edged past Azerbaijan’s Kamran Shakhsuvarly, leaving all three one win from the title of World Champion.
ROUND TWO: Take your chances
Two years ago, Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko banished the disappointment of losing the final in 2013 and turned his silver to gold in Doha. This year, in Hamburg, it is Erislandy Savon’s turn to try and convert his opportunity to be crowned World Champion. The Cuban Heavyweight lost to the Russian to go home with the silver in Doha, and will be going all out on Saturday to defeat his rival.
ROUND THREE: UKRAINE’S NEW POWERHOUSE
On route to Saturday’s Middleweight (75kg) Final, Oleksandr Khyzniak has emerged as the man to continue Ukraine’s great tradition of tough, close-in boxers. After shining in Kharkiv, the 2017 EUBC Champion has continued to impress in Hamburg, powering past USA’s Troy Islay on Thursday evening to reach the gold-medal bout.
The 40 boxers remaining in the AIBA World Championships spent the rest day focussing on final preparations for Thursday and Friday’s all-important Semi-Finals. Among the 20 nations left in the hunt for gold are boxers from Cameroon, Ireland, Colombia, Mongolia and Ecuador, while Cuba still feature in seven of the ten weight categories, both Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan in six.
LIGHT FLYWEIGHT (49kg)
The first boxer in the ring on Day Six, defending champion Johanys Argilagos, will know that he must be at his very best to overcome Yerzhan Zhomart, the Kazakh newcomer having impressed so far in Hamburg. The winner will no doubt watch on with interest as Hasanboy Dusmatov and Yuberjen Martinez then come together in a repeat of the Rio 2016 Olympic Final, the high point of the Uzbek’s brilliant unbeaten run since disappointment in Doha.
Russia’s Tamir Galanov has proven to be one of the surprise packages of a very open Flyweight competition in Hamburg, but he now faces Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia, a man looking determined to improve on his silver two years ago. Korean revelation Inkyu Kim faces resurgent Uzbek Jasurbek Latipov in the second Semi-Final on Friday.
The first of the Bantamweight semis on Thursday sees Kazakhstan’s Kairat Yeraliev, third in the ASBC Continentals earlier in the year, face England’s in-form EUBC Champion Peter McGrail who has clearly found the winning habit in Hamburg. India’s sole representative in the last four, Gaurav Bidhuri will then meet the first of the USA’s three boxers still in the title hunt, Duke Ragan.
The schedule for the second day of Semi-Finals includes Cuban Lightweight Lazaro Alvarez continuing his search for a remarkable fourth consecutive World title against Georgia’s close-quarter specialist Otar Eranosyan, before Otgondalai Dorjnyambuu flies the flag for Mongolia against Sofiane Oumiha, a key part of France’s superb Rio 2016 Olympic squad.
LIGHT WELTERWEIGHT (64kg)
Fifth into the ring on Thursday will be USA’s Freudis Rojas against Uzbek Ikboljon Kholdarov, the 19-year-old Las Vegas native who burst onto the national scene last year eager to continue his ascent through the elite ranks against another relative newcomer out to leave his mark. The winner will meet either Armenia’s resilient Hovhannes Bachkov or Cuban Andy Cruz Gomez for gold.
Cuba’s 2013 World Champion Roniel Iglesias has looked back in the kind of title-winning form that saw him also win Olympic gold at London 2012, and he will meet Germany’s EUBC silver medallist Abass Baraou on Friday. Uzbekistan’s Shakhram Giyasov lost to Iglesias in the WSB Play-Offs earlier in the year, and would love to overcome Kazakhstan’s Ablaikan Zhussupov and set up what could be a mouth-watering rematch for gold.
Kazakh newcomer Abilkhan Amankul meets Azerbaijan’s Kamran Shakhsuvarly in the first Middleweight bout of Day Six. The winner will go on to face whoever emerges victorious from an unmissable battle between Ukrainian powerhouse Oleksandr Khyzhniak, who impressed with his energetic and attacking flair in Kharkiv, and USA’s latest revelation Troy Isley.
LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT (81kg)
Two monumental bouts are in store on Friday that will decide the 2017 Light Heavyweight finalists, with the virtuoso skills of Cuba’s other triple World Champion, Julio Cesar La Cruz, on display against Ecuador’s historic first medallist in the tournament, Carlos Mina. The winner will face either Ireland’s three-time EUBC Champion Joe Ward, beaten to gold by La Cruz in Doha, or Uzbekistan’s Bektemir Melikuziev, for the title.
With three of the top four seeds still in the hunt for gold, the Heavyweight competition is wide open, Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko facing Uzbek newcomer Sanjar Tursunov in the first Semi-Final at the weight class. In Thursday’s final bout, Cuba’s imposing Felix Savon will be out to avenge the more compact but equally effective Kazakhstan number one and Olympic silver medallist Vassiliy Levit, winner of the pair’s Rio 2016 Semi-Final twelve months ago.
SUPER HEAVYWEIGHT (+91kg)
Cameroon’s Fokou Arsene is both the last African representative in Hamburg and the last remaining seed at Super Heavyweight. As such, he will be hoping to once again seize the early initiative against Kazakhstan’s Kamshybek Kunkabayev and reach the gold-medal match. The winner will face either Australia’s Joe Goodall or Azeri Mahammadrasul Majidov, as the two big-hitters wrap-up the second Semi-Final day in style.