By Alexey Sukachev
The 2011 AIBA World Championships, taking place for the last two weeks in Baku, Azerbaijan, are finally over. The tournament was filled with flying leather, epic emotions, horrible scandals, and stunning upsets and – more often than not (even despite corruption claims and questionable decisions) – quality performances by boxers from various countries.
The championships were’t particularly interesting – it wasn’t an eye-catching tournament and it went almost unnoticed - even among hardcore fans of boxing. Also, it wasn’t your usual championship with traditional favorites. There were several big, notable changes in amateur landscape, which all can or cannot be long-term trends. There were also old and mostly negative trends, which also seem to be long-life after deeper analyses. Here are three most important directions
Trend 1. Amateur boxing is still corrupt
Not actually a trend but the normal state of business in amateur game. And we aren’t talking exactly about money fraud, or money laundering, or bribes. There’s no indication or clear evidence, that something was “illegal” in recent years, and there are no names to put forward, but signs of stagnation and corruption (in a wider meaning of these terms) are certainly visible.
The most telling example is loss-win trickery around Vasyl Lomachenko's fight with Robson Conceincao from Brazil. The whole story left a sour taste of disgrace and disappointment mixed with anger and hatred in hearts of many fans and non-fans alike. While Lomachenko indeed looked to be a winner and “justice” was finally restored in the end, Team Brazil suffered a blow and injustice was made towards Conceincao.
It was also a precedent (call it Roy Lomachenko or Vasyl Jones precedent) for future claims and cries for re-arrangement of actual (even correct) scoring. The question is why the same rule wasn’t applied for other questionable events such as an extremely dubious DQ of Albert Selimov from Russia.
Refereeing was just as bad, as usual, and the judges were sometimes way off as well. Some scores seemed to be awful, while other results made me ponder about the noble manners of modern prizefighting.
Additionally, the recent scandal claiming Azerbaijani was literally trying to buy gold medals in 2012 Summer Olympics (rejected and vehemently dismissed by the AIBA and being openly investigated by the same governing body), created protests from various coaches and delegations and much more.
Given the recent sound statements from the president of AIBA about heading in the direction of pro fights, with their own set of rules and regulations look laughable and delusional at best. The AIBA should clearly take the time to make their own garden cleaner before an artificial “insemination” into the paid ranks.
Trend 2. Rules aren’t satisfactory
The AIBA tries to make the sport of boxing cleaner or at least proclaims this as the primary target for the future. Meanwhile, we are still here in the local jungles.
Other shameful features, however, are still recognizable. Some punches are counted, and some are not. Body punches are not only missed during calculation but their legal use is now a foul in the amateur game. At least it looked so after clear-cut knockdowns, scored by such fighter as Everton Lopez or Vasyl Lomachenko. In a ridiculous turn of events, one can score a legal knockdown (and your opponent would be issued a count), which will be penalized at the end.
How can one improve scoring? The answer is simple: retain the same number of judges but give them the task to assess the rounds based on the usual four-term criteria, but not to work as Compubox. The exact way of scoring can be different to a ten-point must system. One can even apply figure skating methods of evaluation and take away the most negative and the most positive marks. Another way is to retain the existing scoring mode (for each punch) but make an automatic knockdown count (with a value of at least five points).
Take a note, that there were no knockouts or stoppages in the finals. Why so, given the fact that the headgear doesn’t provide you with a serious guard from being knocked out cold? The answer is here – shockproof gloves, which can barely be doubled to the fist. I wonder if Edwin Valero would have ended his amateur days with at least .70 or .75 percentage of kayos. For now it looks absolutely impossible.
Trend 3. Old leaders are in decline
Just make a look below to the finals team standings and try to find Russia, Kazakhstan and the United States. In all those countries got one gold medal, two silver medals and five third places. That can only be described as a catastrophe.
While Team USA hasn’t shown anything of note since Andre Ward’s gold medal in Athens, Kazakhstani and, specifically, Russia's setback is at least shocking. It seemed that after the downfall of the American amateur system, and Cuban self-imposed exile from Beijing Olympics, Team Russia should have taken a clear lead but not this time.
This trend is different to other countries. Russian performance was as poor as it gets but it can be just an episode, a bad moment connected with a recent change of the coach roster with the unsuccessful comeback of former head coach Nikolay Khromov. We shall get an answer in a year from this point. As for Americans, their level of boxing is clearly not sufficient to make Team USA a major player on the international scale it always was before.
Ukraine's rise to power while ex-Soviet amateur system is still prosperous.
As it with the previous case, this particular trend is both long-living and short-living depending on which approach is taken.
Ukraine's strong lead looks very solid right now. Most Ukrainian fighters are young and experienced like Olexander Usyk, Denis Berinchyk and Vasyl Lomachenko being the most notable examples. Their predecessors were capable as well – just take a look at current light heavyweight standout Ismayl Syllakh. The Ukrainian youth system is also prosperous, so don’t be surprised if Ukraine is in the mix for a long time. We shall see more in London.
While the Ukrainian future looks bright, and the Russian invasion was stopped in its tracks, one observation hasn’t been changed based on the 2011 Baku results: The ex-Soviet amateur system still rocks the sport. 6/10 gold medals, 10/20 finalists and 19/40 medalists are from eight former Soviet Republics (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). Moldovan, Georgian and Armenian fighters were unlucky this time but they still scorec upsets from time-to-time.
Trend 5. Cuba is still a major player
Guillermo Rigondeaux, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Odlanier Solis, Erislandy Lara, Yunier Dorticos, Yoardanis Despaigne, Luis Franco and Luis Ortiz – is just a short list of talented amateurs who became outstanding pro in the last few years. The talents is still there.
Two gold medals and a positive overall impression, left in Baku, doesn’t lie: Cuban boxing is more alive than dead even after its catastrophic losses. And that is good.
Trend 6. New faces from various countries
That’s the most positive trend of the entire tournament, which presented us with a number of new, pretty faces and provided some fresh blood to the amateur system.
Everton Lopez, Anthony Joshua, Denis Berinchyk, Ryota Murata, Teimur Mammadov and many more – you’re welcome, guys! Bring us more of them!
Best fighters (BoxingScene)
1. Everton Lopez (Brazil)
2. Evgueny Khytrov (Ukraine)
3. Olexander Usyk (Ukraine)
4. Denis Berinchyk (Ukraine)
5. Zou Shiming (China)
1. Ukraine (4 gold medals – 1 silver medal – 0 bronze medals)
2. Cuba (2-1-0)
3. Azerbaijan (1-1-0)
4. Russia (1-0-2)
5-6. China (1-0-1)
5-6. Brazil (1-0-1)
Russia – 6
Ukraine – 6
Kazakhstan – 6
Cuba – 5
Azerbaijan – 4
England – 4
Italy – 4
Uzbekistan – 4
Ireland – 3
India – 3
China – 3
USA – 3
South Korea – 2
Brazil – 2
Mongolia – 2
Wales – 2
Belarus – 2
Hungary – 2
Japan – 1
Moldova – 1
Croatia – 1
Germany – 1
Algeria – 1
Iran – 1
Australia – 1
Tajikistan – 1
Armenia – 1
Romania – 1
Serbia – 1
Lithuania – 1
Bulgaria – 1
Magomedrasul Medzhidov (Azerbaijan) – Anthony Oluwafemi Olaseni Joshua (England) – 22:21 (6:9, 8:5, 8:7)
In a wild and colorful brawl to end the championship, local favorite Magomedrasul Medzhidov, a relative of hard-punching prizefighter Magomed Abdusalamov, got the better of British sensation Anthony Joshua. Both fighters produced non-stop two-way action. Joshua was punching more and his punches were sharper but Rasulov’s experience and brute blows did a great job for him. Joshua was briefly wobbled in the second round after a huge right swing by the Azerbaijani, which resulted in a knockdown against him.
Although Medzhidov got a deserved victory but Joshua looked a future force to be reckoned with both in amateurs and pros. In 2012 London he would be a favorite, while Medzhidov’s win can very well be just a moment in the sport’s history.
Bronze medalists: Ivan Dychko (Kazakhstan) and Erik Pfeifer (Germany)
Qualified to London: Filip Hrgovic (Croatia), Victor Zuyev (Belarus), Roberto Cammarelle (Italy) and Erislandy Savon (Cuba).
Olexander Usyk (Ukraine) – Teimur Mammadov (Azerbaijan) – 25:15 (7:6, 11:6, 7:3)
After his win over hard-hitting Russian knockout artist Artur Beterbiyev there were no other favorites in the heavyweight division other than Ukrainian Olexander Usyk – and rightfully so. Usyk looked a clear favorite also against 18-year old local guy Mammadov and he proved his superiority by literally breaking his younger opponent. Tough and powerful Usyk is well-advised to turn pro immediately after his possible win in London Summer Olympics.
Bronze medalists: Sergey Korneyev (Belarus) and Xuanxuan Wang (China)
Qualified to London: Artur Beterbiyev (Russia), Chouaib Bouloudinats (Algeria), Jose Larduet (Cuba) and Vasiliy Levit (Kazakhstan).
Julio De La Cruz Peraza (Cuba) – Adilbek Niyazmambetov (Kazakhstan) – (4:4, 8:4, 5:5)
The newest Cuban sensation Julio Peraza didn’t let his fans down and got a nice win over Adilbek Niyazmambetov thus leaving the Kazakh national team with zero gold medals, which is a major letdown for one of the best squads in amateur boxing.
After an even first round Peraza increased the tempo of the fight and gave his opponent no chances in the second. Round three was even once again but it was okay for the Cuban fighter, who got the second gold medal for his team.
Bronze medalists: Elshod Rasulov (Uzbekistan) and Yegor Mekhontsev (Russia)
Qualified to London: Olexander Gvozdik (Ukraine), Ehsan Rouzbahani (Iran), Damien Hooper (Australia) and Fanlong Meng (China).
Evgueny Khytrov (Ukraine) – Ryota Murata (Japan) – 24:22 (6:7, 10:7, 8:8)
Aggressive and powerful Ukrainian middleweight Evgueny Khytrov proved his superiority over the championship’s biggest sensation Ryota Murata of Japan. Uncharacteristically good for a Japanese fighter of his size and weight, Murata edged Khytrov in the first round with his precision but in the second the Ukrainian upped already fast tempo of the fight and easily overpowered his opponent. Murata was issued a count after a barrage of Khytrov’s punches in the midst of the round and wasn’t the same since that.
Khytrov is the best middleweight in the world. But is he the best in Ukraine? Sergey Derevyanchenko, who was controversially denied his already won (via WSB) Olympic license, would disagree with that one.
Bronze medalists: Esquivia Falcao Florentino (Brazil) and Bogdan Juratoni (Romania)
Qualified to London: Danabek Suzhanov (Kazakhstan), Darrem O’Neil (Ireland), Alexandar Drenoviak (Serbia) and Andranik Hakobyan (Armenia)
Taras Shelestyuk (Ukraine) – Serik Sapiyev (Kazakhstan) – 16:10 (5:2, 3:2, 8:6)
Ukrainian Taras Shelestyuk got an undeserved win over two-time former world champion Serik Sapiyev in a controversial fight. Shelestyuk boxed in a German style – trying to use his jab and to maintain a high guard throughout the entire contest. Sapiyev was much more active by throwing more and landing more. His technique was also very sound as he found spots to land fast, although not very crisp, combinations to the head and body of Shelestyuk.
However, it wasn’t enough to grant him a deserved win, as it was awarded to Shelestyuk.
Bronze medalists: Krishan Vikas (India) and Egidijus Kavaliauskas (Lithuania)
Qualified to London: Errol Spence (USA), An drey Zamkovoy (Russia), Fred Evans (Wales) and Vasiliy Belous (Moldova)
Everton dos Santos Lopez (Brazil) – Denis Berinchyk (Ukraine) – 26:23 (8:3, 8:9, 10:11)
In clearly the best and the most thrilling fight of the tourney between two of its biggest stars, scintillating counterpuncher Everton Lopez engaged in a brawl with ultra-aggressive Ukrainian crowd-pleaser Denis Berinchyk and came out as the winner after endless, powerful exchanges, which were also rather dirty from both sides.
Despite swarming all over his opponent, Berinchyk lost the opening stanza with a wide margin even though his left hook was the best punch of the round. However, his sheer aggression wasn’t enough to derail the Brazilian who counterpunched beautifully.
Sensing his advantage was heavy to say the least, and Everton Lopez turned into a spoiler in the second. It didn’t change the flow of the fight as both combatants punched in a non-stop mode. Both fighters were deducted (or it’s better to say were added) points for foul play, and Lopez also scored an impressive knockdown with a beautiful left hook to the liver.
In the last round, Berinchyk left everything in the ring, while Lopez fell down numerous times. However, late surge from Ukrainian proved to be too ineffective for Berinchyk to get him win. Although some hotshots will call it a robbery, it wasn’t exactly so. It was an even fight between two classy boxers, and Lopez had every right to celebrate in the end. The same can be said about Berinchyk but he was just a bit unlucky to find himself on a wrong edge of judges’ decision.
Bronze medalists: Thomas Lee Stalker (England) and Vincenzo Magniacapre (Italy)
Qualified to London: Munkh Uranchimeg (Mongolia), Gyula Kate (Hungary), Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev (Azerbaijan) and Manoj Kumar (India)
Vasyl Lomachenko (Ukraine) – Yasniel Toledo Lopez (Cuba) – 17:12 (6:3, 5:4, 6:5)
The best amateur fighter in the world got off to a very turbulent start in Baku, but he overcame adversity (a controversial to a certain degree win over Jose Ramirez and his cancelled loss to Brazilian Robson Conceincao) and broke through the second part of the tournament to get a deserved victory.
Having said this, it’s necessary to note that 2008 Beijing and 2009 Milano gold medalist looked less spectacular than usual this time around, and he was struggling against much taller and bigger fighters. His power has gotten him through but not with ease. In the final, Lomachenko landed a hard right hand to floor Toledo in the first round. However, in the second the Cuban fighter retaliated well, and flashy Ukrainian southpaw was forced to fight actively in the third to take the decision.
Bronze medalists: Domenico Valentino (Italy) and Gani Zhailauov (Kazakhstan)
Qualified to London: Jai Bhagwan (India), Soon Han (South Korea), Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (Uzbekistan) and Miklos Varga (Hungary)
Lazaro Alvarez (Cuba) – Luke Campbell (England) – 14:10 (4:2, 6:4, 4:4)
Lazaro Alvarez is one of the most obscure names in the renovated Cuban national boxing team, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because he boxes in one of the most obscure weight classes. However, in a battle of two southpaws Alvarez showed his class. The Cuban fighter threw a lot more punches than his British opponent and, although the percentage being thrown wasn’t exactly great, it was enough to land more as well.
Campbell, who defeated #1-ranked Bulgarian Detelin Dalakliev on his way up, became aggressive in the last round but it wasn’t enough to earn him the judges’ sympathies.
Bronze medalists: John Nevin (Ireland) and Anvar Yunusov (Tajikistan)
Qualified to London: Joseph Diaz (USA), Sergey Vodopianov (Russia), Detelin Dalakliev (Bulgaria) and Orzubek Shaimov (Uzbekistan)
Misha Aloyan (Russia) – Andrew Selby (Wales) – 13:12 (4:2, 4:4, 5:6)
The only Russian gold medal was taken by slugger Misha Aloyan with a razor-thin win over Welsh Andrew Selby. Aloyan, a proud representative of Yazidi ethnic minority, was better in the beginning of the fight but was pushed to a limit by Selby at the end, as he was barely outpunching his opponent despite eating some leather in return. Aloyan is 2008 World Cup and 2010 Euro champion.
Bronze medalists: Rau’Shee Warren (USA) and Jasurbek Latipov (Uzbekistan)
Qualified to London: Elvin Mamishzade (Azerbaijan), Khalid Yafai (England), Vicenzo Picardi (Italy) and Michael Conlan (Ireland)
Zou Shiming (China) – Hoon Jong Shin (South Korea) – 20:11 (4:3, 9:3, 7:5)
The best Chinese boxer in history proved once again his superiority over all possible opposition by winning this championship in style. Shiming, who was unranked before these competitions due to series of injuries and rare appearances inside the ropes, delivered his trademark tricky and crafty performance.
30-year old Zou, working as a counterpuncher, outhustled and outpunched his aggressive opponent to win an easy decision. He is now a three-time champion (in addition to 2005 Minyang and 2007 Chicago WC) and, more importantly, a 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medalist. He is also the best junior flyweight of the last decade and one of the finest little men of all time.
Bronze medalists: David Ayrapetyan (Russia) and Serdamba Purevdorj (Mongolia)