AFTER the draw and the opening ceremony, the men’s World championships got underway this week at the Expo Center in Ekaterinburg, Russia, with 365 boxers from 78 countries taking part.
AIBA, the beleaguered governing body for amateur boxing, will hope that the competition can draw attention to the sport itself, rather than the profound problems of governance that have seen the organisation suspended from handling the Olympic Games itself.
AIBA’s Interim President Mohamed Moustahsane sounded an optimistic note in his opening remarks. “The situation of AIBA hasn’t been the easiest one but being all united we can overcome it. The World championship is a great opportunity to show the whole world how strong and passionate about boxing we are,” he said. “Investments that all of us made into boxing should go back to national federations to continue to develop our sport. The politics should not be at the centre of our universe, but the athletes and coaches… This tournament is the dream for a lot of athletes, and you all deserved to be here among best of the best and fight not only for gold but for our beloved sport and its future.
“The Olympics is a dream of all the athletes, but the World championships is not less important in each boxer’s career.”
That’s a contentious claim. Most boxers would not consider these Worlds as significant as an Olympics or even the qualification events for Tokyo 2020. However it is a major event in their progress. As a demanding competition, only the best reach the World medal stages. But this particular event is massively important for the future of AIBA itself. The pressure is on to demonstrate that they can run a fair, well-judged, successful tournament. They need to restore faith in the global mechanisms for the international sport.
The boxing at the tournament began on Monday (September 9). The GB team suffered two defeats on the first day of competition in Ekaterinburg. Young English middleweight Mark Dickinson could not contain Arman Darchinyan. As their bout progressed the Armenian’s muscular attacks broke through the Briton’s defences and he forced a unanimous decision result his way.
Sean Lazzerini, boxing for Scotland at 75kgs in that same session, was also eliminated. China’s Tuohetaerbieke Tanglatihan shut him out 30-27 for all five judges.
The first Welsh boxer in action was light-heavyweight Sammy Lee. The southpaw took on Jordan’s Odai Alhindawi the following day (September 10), flinging full-bodied hooks to win a unanimous decision. Russia’s Georgii Kushitashvili waits for him in the next round. They will box on Sunday.
Irish middleweight Michael Nevin began his campaign with a unanimous decision victory over Moldova’s Andrei Vreme. His next bout will be on Saturday (September 14) against Lithuania’s Vytautas Baslys.
On Tuesday (September 10) Ireland’s 91kgs Kiril Afanasev beat Australia’s Austin Aokuso on a unanimous points decision. Irish 81kgs Kane Tucker, who must follow in Joe Ward’s illustrious footsteps, succumbed to Kyrgyzstan’s Uulu Erkin Adylbek on a unanimous decision.
John Marvin, a British Army boxer representing the Philippines in this competition, won his opening bout, beating Lithuania’s Paulius Zujevas on a split decision.
These Worlds are the first major tournament at the new Olympic weights. So there are only eight divisions (no light-fly and lightweight and light-welter are merged into 63kgs). It also gives an insight therefore into what categories the elite boxers will be looking at next year. Brilliant Cuban Lazaro Alvarez, dominant at 60kgs in recent years, for instance has been obliged to move down to 57kgs. He won’t be in action until September 15, the same day when GB’s Peter McGrail and Ireland’s Kurt Walker will have their first contests in Russia.
Similarly Cheavon Clarke gets a bye at 91kgs and will box on September 15. English light-heavyweight Ben Whittaker has his first bout set for the same day.
On Thursday (September 12) at 63kgs England’s Luke McCormack will box Italy’s Francesco Iozia, Wales’ Mickey McDonagh takes on Canada’s Thomas Blumenfeld and Ireland’s Wayne Kelly faces Trinidad’s Michael Alexander all on that day.
GB welterweight Pat McCormack will enter the tournament on Monday next week (September 16), meeting the winner of Ireland’s Aidan Walsh and Israel’s Miroslav Kapuler Cishchenko who box on Friday (September 13).
Galal Yafai at 52kgs has to wait till September 14 to get his campaign underway. Irish flyweight Regan Daly is due to box on Thursday (September 12) against Indonesia’s Aldoms Suguro.
Super-heavyweights have to wait too. Frazer Clarke boxes Serbia’s Vladan Babic on Monday (September 16).