By Marcus Bellinger
Following on from last week’s Pinoy Problems article we namecheck 10 boxers who have the potential to shape the future of the sport in the Philippines.
All fighters listed are below the age of 25 and are in no particular order.
Mark Magsayo 17-0 13 KOs.
Almost certainly the most recognisable name of this list for the majority, Magsayo has been blazing a trail in the featherweight division and is one of the most exciting young pugilists in the sport. His last 2 opponents, Daniel Diaz and Issa Nanpepeche were both blasted out in a round and although his handlers at the ALA Gym want to hold him back, this is becoming increasingly difficult given the way he is dismantling the provided opposition. The 22-year-old was involved in an up and down thriller against Chris Avalos in April 2016 which showed Magsayo had a huge heart but also that he could be drawn in to an unnecessary war at times. Magsayo should return before the end of the year, hopefully against a solid contender at 126 lb.
Romero Duno 15-1 13 KOs.
This young man came to the attention of many when he drilled the then undefeated Christian Gonzalez in March on a Golden Boy card in Los Angeles. The 2 round demolition earned Duno a contract with the US outfit and this past Saturday he won a unanimous 8 round decision over Juan Pablo Sanchez on the undercard of Jorge Linares’ world lightweight title defense against Luke Campbell. His only loss came on the road in Russia to Mikhail Alexeev back in May 2015 via an 8 round unanimous decision but this hasn’t harmed the 21-year-old’s career prospects at all. Whilst still needing some polishing Duno is a genuine puncher and with a powerhouse promotional team like Golden Boy backing him the future looks bright for this Filipino.
Jack Tepora 21-0 16 KOs.
Tepora has been well thought of for a while but until his 21st contest he hadn’t really been tested. The vast majority of his first 20 bouts came in his home area of Cebu where his promoters, Omega Pro Sports International aimed to establish a solid fan base for the gifted southpaw. Like most Filipinos Tepora came from humble beginnings and had around 100 amateur contests winning 2 golds and a bronze in national tournaments. By far his biggest test came on September 22 when he travelled to East London, South Africa to face puncher Lusanda Komanisi. Tepora scored a 1-punch knockout in round 2 to claim the vacant WBO International featherweight strap in the process and announce himself as one to watch for the future.
Jeo Santisima 14-2 12 KOs.
After being outpointed by Marlon Arcilla and Roniel Parcon within his first 4 fights, Santisima has strung together 12 consecutive victories including an impressive 6th round KO of Marco Demecillo in February 2016. Having begun boxing at 16, Santisima followed his elder brother to the ALA Gym and whilst his sibling packed up the sport, the 21-year-old persisted and has sparred with the likes of Mark Magsayo, Albert Pagara and even Nonito Donaire. Santisima has worked his way up the pecking order on the Pinoy Pride series and won a lopsided 10 round decision versus Master Suro in April and blitzed Goodluck Mrema in a round as the co-main of Julys ALA offering. The young super bantamweight is now ready for a step up and if it could be arranged a clash between him and Jack Tepora could potentially be something special.
Mark Anthony Barriga 6-0 1 KOs.
Barriga is one of the best amateur fighters to come from the Philippines in recent times having competed at 2 world championships and the London 2012 Olympics. He captured gold at the 2013 South East Asian Games and Bronze at the 2014 Asian Games both in the light flyweight division. The talented southpaw also took part in the World Series of Boxing where contests are over 5 rounds instead of the usual 3 in AIBA tournaments. As his record suggest since turning pro, Barriga hasn’t shown a huge amount of power but in terms of talent, counter punching ability and boxing acumen the 24-year-old has all 3 in spades. Barriga goes for his first title on 29 September in Beijing when he faces Samartlek Kokietgym for the WBO International strawweight crown.
Kevin Jake Cataraja 7-0 6 KOs.
So far Cataraja has proved to be a smart cookie both in and out the ring, combining studies with his boxing career. The 22-year-old was driven to succeed in life after coming through genuine poverty during his childhood where the next meal on the table wasn’t guaranteed and his father didn’t always have enough money to provide for the family. Having had around 300 amateur fights and won 4 golds at national level, Cataraja elected to pursue his studies and was awarded a scholarship in Cebu City. Cataraja would do his hour long run, attend class and then head to the ALA Gym where he would receive an education of a different variety, sparring with the likes of long time world champion Donnie Nietes. Having graduated with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminology in March, Cataraja now has the knowledge that an alternative career path is firmly in his back pocket should his boxing career not pan out the way he hopes. He has passed every test given to him so far as a pro and has gone 8 rounds once and also stopped Ellias Nggenggo, who knocked out former world champion Merlito Sabillo.
Jessie Espinas 16-2 11 KOs.
Espinas has shown the ability to bounce back from a knockout defeat and is now in a crowded light flyweight mix for a world title tilt. Espinas took on unbeaten Christian Araneta but was stopped in 8 rounds in their September 2015 meeting. In January 2016 Espinas returned to stop Joey Camoy in 5 rounds in a real confidence booster. Camoy has since gone on to face Hekkie Budler and claim a victory over Melvin Jerusalem. Espinas’ next assignment came just a month later when he travelled to Thailand to square off against Paitharob Kokietgym. Paitharob was unbeaten in 32 fights at the time and given the huge difficulties in winning in Thailand Espinas looked up against it but the 24-year-old dropped his opponent 3 times on the way to an 8th round knockout in a quite brilliant display. The slick southpaw has won 5 straight since his loss to Araneta and a rematch between the 2 Pinoys was scheduled for July but was unfortunately cancelled.
Christian Araneta 14-0 12 KOs.
Araneta began boxing at the age of 14 but didn’t have a long amateur career as providing money for his family was a bigger priority. He didn’t turn professional with any fan fair and was unknown for most for quite a while and fought in small venues away from the limelight. The 22-year-old possesses plenty of power and has a really exciting style. The hard hitting southpaw, who is under the Omega Pro Sports International banner stopped the hopelessly overmatched Demsi Manufoe in a round in his last ring appearance in March. No doubt the biggest win of Araneta’s career came against Jessie Espinas and hopefully their rematch can be rearranged as both men have certainly grown since their first contest.
Reymart Gaballo 16-0 14 KOs.
Gaballo fought 5 times in 2016 and although the opposition was nothing special he dealt with them with a roofless efficiency. Gaballo stopped Yodpichai Sithsaithong in a round to claim a minor WBC super bantamweight belt in September 2016. With only around 30 amateur bouts, Gaballo has been moved carefully by Jim Claude Manangquil to compensate for his lack of experience. In recent times the 21-year-old has sparred with Shinsuke Yamanaka, Naoya Inoue and Guillermo Rigondeaux giving him an invaluable ring education. Gaballo has dynamite in his fists especially in the right hand but he is still roar and rounds against durable foes is required for him to progress. Unfortunately for whatever reason he is still to fight in 2017 but there is no doubt that this young super bantamweight has all the roar ingredients of a very exciting prospect.
Eumir Marcial middleweight.
Last but certainly not least we delve in to the amateurs for our final pick. At just the tender age of 21 Marcial has already achieved a lot having won back to back golds at the 2015 and 2017 South East Asian Games along with a silver at the 2015 Asian championships. He also was at the top of the podium in the 2013 Asian Youth Championships and the 2011 world junior championships. In the ring Marcial isn’t shy in engaging in a toe-to-toe battle and has the firepower to back it up. He can also box when necessary and has adapted well to the move up in weight. Hand issues have unfortunately blighted his career but if he can stay injury free then there is no reason why he can’t win more medals with the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta being the next big tournament. Long term the 2020 Tokyo Olympics should be within his sites and the prospect of him grabbing a medal aren’t out of the question.
By Marcus Bellinger-
The Philippines is considered a major boxing territory and with 3 current world champions, a cluster of world contenders and a number of gifted youngsters both in the professional and amateur ranks the garden would seem pretty rosy, however, if underlying problems regarding the sport in the country aren’t addressed then boxing could fade away in to obscurity which would be criminal given the rich history of fabulous fighters to have come from the Philippines.
Manny Pacquiao has carried the boxing expectations on his shoulders for his homeland for at least the last decade and whilst Nonito Donaire enjoyed good success in the US and Brian Viloria and Donnie Nietes have been quality champions in their own right the Philippines has failed to nurture enough elite fighters or mould the next superstar who can take boxing forward. Of course its holy unrealistic to expect someone like Pacquiao who completely transcended sport, let alone boxing to just reappear but the country hasn’t capitalised on having such a figure.
Not being a cash rich nation finances are an obvious hurdle with minuscule purses available early on for young fighters and sports such as basketball being a preferred and more viable option. Top amateurs are also hesitant to turn pro and give up their regular income from the national team. Many Filipino boxers are sent out on the road often from very early on in their careers and whilst this can instil great mental strength it can also have the opposite effect and shorten careers and see promising talents go to waste. We have also seen the likes of Mark John Yap, Genesis Servania and Ricky Sismundo leave home and continue their careers in Japan with a solid degree of success.
Johnriel Casimero, Marlon Tapales, Rey Loreto and even Jerwin Ancajas have been involved in world title bouts in the last couple of years but if you lived in the Philippines you may have not even known they had taken place with no TV coverage at all. Ancajas triumphant IBF super flyweight victory over McJoe Arroyo last September at home was broadcast on Rappler.com’s Facebook page, otherwise people would have had to rely on social media for updates. It’s hard to think of any other established boxing nation who would not have had even a regional broadcaster for a home world title fight. Milan Melindo’s magnificent knockout of Akira Yaegashi to capture the IBF light flyweight crown this May only received severely delayed viewing having originally been scheduled to be shown a couple of hours later.
ABS-CBN are the only TV outlet consistently showing boxing on a regular basis as the channel broadcasts ALA’s Pinoy Pride cards. The Pinoy Pride series showcases ALA’s top fighters including Donnie Nietes, Milan Melindo and numerous others. With a limited number of dates and slots it’s simply not possible for every Filipino fighter of significance to appear on these shows and the last thing the country needs is a monopoly with every boxer under 1 promotional banner. Having boxing spread across multiple TV stations can create annoying divisions at times with egos preventing different entities from working with each other but for me the healthy competition to put on the best possible product outweigh those problems.
Another stumbling block within Filipino boxing is the promotional aspect with most small hall shows taking place in malls where admission is free. This might sound good but you create an understandable apathy amongst fans who become used to attending for free and then are hesitant to part with their cash. Big ticket sellers are an essential part of the UK scene and often fighters who shift more tickets are prioritised regardless of their ability. Building a genuine draw can also make life a lot easier when it comes to securing home advantage for a fighter’s first world title bout for example.
With the way people view content changing all the time various promoters around the world have distributed shows on various online platforms giving fans access to undercards and lower profile events. Rappler.com has provided live or delayed coverage for various bills around the Philippines but promoters in the country really need to think about using the internet to showcase their fighters and at least try and build a fan base and create a buzz. There may be a cost factor preventing this from happening but a longer term view needs to be taken and with more available footage the bigger the chance that a top flite promoter in the US would be interested in signing a potential Pinoy talent. Even the Pinoy Pride bills are hard to watch for international viewers which is frustrating for the likes of myself. Note, Sanman Promotions has taken to live streaming their cards using multiple camera angles to try and gain their fighter’s some publicity.
Lastly as an outsider it really is hard to fathom why there is such a reticence to make all Filipino bouts of intrigue. Jonas Sultan won an eliminator over Johnriel Casimero to earn a crack at IBF super flyweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas. If it takes place it will be the first all Filipino world title clash since Pancho Villa fought Clever Sencio for the flyweight crown back in May 1925 which is absolutely staggering.
Being from the UK its routine that an all British tussle of significance would gain far more attention than a contest involving a brit and a good quality foreign pugilist so it’s difficult for me to comprehend the unease about seeing 2 boxers from the same country facing each other. The reasons given by many are that gaining more Filipino world champions is the priority and only then should these fights be discussed. A matchup between super bantamweights Jeo Santisima and Jack Tepora was briefly talked about before ABS-CBN put a kybosh on it for the reasons stated above along with neither man is well known. A bout like Santisima Tepora allows all those involved to gage what level their fighter is at and react accordingly.
A strong domestic structure enables everyone to identify those who are capable of moving on to world level and those who are either domestic and regional level or need to rebuild. There is also the potential to build intriguing rivalries between the gyms and promotional outfits within the Philippines. Japan is a perfect illustration and blueprint that could be followed as fighters from the land of the rising sun must prove they are the best in their country or region before ascending to a world title. Finally in my opinion the negative attitude to all Pinoy bouts whether it’s from the fans, media or TV execs badly needs to change if the Philippines is to move forward and reach its boxing potential.
By Marcus Bellinger
It was a rollercoaster night of emotions at the StubHub Center as the 115 lb division took centre stage with 3 bouts of significance featuring on a card that was broadcast on both HBO and Sky Sports.
First up was an all Mexican dustup between Juan Francisco Estrada and Carlos Cuadras. The first 6 rounds saw much activity from Cuadras whilst the accuracy was coming from Estrada and depending on which commentary you were viewing you could have been swayed either way that one man was dominating.
Having had it level myself after 6 I thought Estrada pulled away in the second half of the contest and a knockdown in the 10th stanza sealed the deal in what was a thoroughly absorbing and enjoyable 12 rounder. To most people’s surprise Cuadras was initially announced to have prevailed with scores of 114-113 from all 3 judges before announcer Michael Buffer corrected his mistake to much amusement from many. Estrada is now mandatory for WBC champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai and after taking on weak opposition in recent times let’s hope that the talented Mexican competes on the world class level on a regular basis. As for Cuadras there are still plenty of good fights for him in a loaded weight class.
Next up was the anticipated US debut of WBO boss Naoya Inoue who took on Antonio Nieves. Not much was expected from the challenger and he was broken down by a piston like jab and a crippling body attack and his corner wisely pulled him out after round 6. Let’s be honest Inoue did what he was supposed to but the plan was to leave a good impression on those who haven’t witnessed him before and in that sense it was mission accomplished.
Whilst bouts with Srisaket and Estrada are an intriguing prospect unfortunately the 2 potential super fights with Roman Gonzalez and Shinsuke Yamanaka are now down the drain and with bantamweight being a shallow pool of talent it may be a while before the 24-year-old faces another elite fighter. A move up to 118 lb seems to be the next move for Inoue with an end of year fight in Japannext up. With the WBC strap in flux and Ryan Burnett taking on Zhanat Zhakiyanov in October WBO titlist Zolani Tete looks the most feasible option and the South African would provide an interesting stylistic match up for the man known as ‘Monster’.
Finally it was on to the main event as Roman Gonzalez aimed to avenge his defeat to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. Srisaket won a close points decision in March but there was no doubt this time as Gonzalez was knocked out in 4 rounds with 2 crunching right hooks ending proceedings to the shock of many in attendance and watching at home. Having begun his world title run at strawweight campaigning at 115 lb was always a stretch and there were signs in his hard-fought win over Carlos Cuadras that the numerous fights were taking their toll and the second go around with the ferocious hard hitting Srisaket proved to be a mountain too far.
As someone who honestly doesn’t give a shit about pound 4 pound lists or the Hall of Fame I’ll let others debate that until the cows come home but there is no doubt that the Nicaraguan is an all-time great and has been one of the best boxers that there has ever been in the lower weight classes. Putting aside his last 6 contests which appeared on HBO or HBO PPV Gonzalez reigned supreme as a world champion for just under 7 years, defeating the likes of Yutaka Niida, Katsunari Takayama, Juan Fransisco Estrada, Francisco Rodriguez Jr, Akira Yaegashi and Rocky Fuentes. When you add in the victories against Edgar Sosa, Brian Viloria, McWilliams Arroyo and Carlos Cuadras it makes you realise what an incredible career the 30-year-old has had.
A genuine 4 weight world champion unlike the manufactured career of Adrian Broner Gonzalez never ran from a challenge, faced the best available competition and dared to be great in stretching his body to the limit and will be remembered as such by all true boxing fans
Gonzalez was also a pioneer having headlined his own card on HBO which was unheard of for someone of his size and nationality. For some unknown reason there were these ridiculous barriers that prevented American TV channels from showcasing fighters below bantamweight but hopefully those days are over and going forward every boxer who is given a chance on a major platform around the flyweight and super flyweight division should be eternally appreciative of the man known as ‘Chocolatito’.
If Gonzalez does bow out it also signals the end of an era for the Teiken Gym with the retirement of Takashi Miura and Shinsuke Yamanaka expected to finish his career in the very near future. All 3 have been at the forefront of the Gym and replacements will have to be found which should come in time given the amount of talent in Japan and the vast amount of knowledge and experience within the Teiken team.
Finally after being subjected to one of the most condescending, unprofessional and fucking disgraceful post-fight interviews by HBO’s Max Kellerman after his first win over Gonzalez, Srisaket is due a huge amount of respect and credit after repeating the dose in such emphatic fashion.
A real heart-warming story of rising from poverty to world champion the 30-year-old can hopefully be a springboard and inspiration for boxers in his homeland. Thailand has seen many contenders fall well short of world level in the last few years and although Wanheng Menayothin and Knockout CP Freshmart are solid champions in their own right Srisaket succeeding on such a big stage elevates him on to a different stratosphere altogether. Despite the number of fights Srisaket came to boxing late and has had many knock over jobs in Thailand so there should still be plenty left in the tank of the marauding southpaw who is a threat to any super flyweight on the planet.
(Photo by Sumio Yamada)
By Marcus Bellinger-
This past weekend saw the conclusion of the 2017 AIBA world championships which were held in Hamburg Germany. The competition began with 243 boxers and eventually 10 came through 8 days of gruelling action to take gold. With much to ponder here are a few general thoughts from the tournament as a whole.
Having planned to watch the action and record the results from the start the provided stream was blocked to my utter annoyance. In the UK the BBC showed proceedings from the quarter-finals onwards meaning of course the AIBA stream was made unavailable but no explanation was given for why viewers in Britain were unable to access the early stages of the championships.
This isn’t the first time I have had issues with the Olympic channel feed as it has proved unreliable for various Youth and continental tournaments with it either not materialising or cutting out for sizable portions of fights thus resulting in results being missed or important stages of various contests not being seen. The 2015 world championships in Doha was broadcast on YouTube and there were no issues at all from what I can recall so why the change was made is anyone’s guess.
Most will be aware of the huge internal disputes within AIBA and having not delved deep in to the power struggle I’ve no opinion either way but it’s clear from a boxing prospective that a better quality and more consistent stream is necessary along with scoring continuing to be monitored. Speaking of judging from the action I was able to watch the scoring was pretty solid with the quarter-final heavyweight contest between Evgeny Tishchenko and David Nyika standing out as the one atrocious decision. There were some unfathomable cards and Hasanboy Dusmatov and Israil Madrimov can count themselves thoroughly unlucky in their respective contests versus Joahnys Argilagos and Troy Isley respectively. Scoring is a routinely discussed subject in professional boxing and it both codes poor judging must be made accountable at all times.
On to matters in the ring and from an Asian standpoint the tournament was a huge success with the continent boasting 26 of the 80 quarter-finalists and claiming 15 of the 40 medals with 2 gold, 5 silvers and 8 bronze. As expected Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan lead the way with 6 medals each and India, Mongolia and South Korea all grabbed a bronze each.
Uzbekistan will have expected more than 1 gold and they’ll be disappointed at Murodjon Akhmadaliev and Israil Madrimov not reaching the semi-final stage but welterweight victor Shakhram Giyasov showed all the necessary ingredients to be a real star. Kazakhstan are in a rebuilding phase and should be very satisfied with their 1 gold, 2 silvers and 3 Bronze medals and in Ablaikhan Zhussupov and Abilkhan Amankul the country has 2 fantastic young fighters who will only improve with more experience.
India may have hoped for more than a solitary Bronze and lightweight Shiva Thapa being ruled out of the tournament due to illness was a huge blow but the youngsters Gaurav Bidhuri, who captured bantamweight bronze, Amit Panghal and Kavinder Bisht all performed extremely well and with some fabulous talent in the youth and junior levels boxing in the country has a bright future. Mongolia continue to punch above their weight and produce world class operators who are capable of reaching the podium and South Korea’s flyweight Kim Inkyu should be in the mix for medals in the next few years. Japan will be reliant on the exciting youth and junior boxers coming through and worryingly China continue to flounder and the nation didn’t claim a single medal.
Outside of Asia Cuba had a sensational tournament winning 5 golds and light welterweight Andy Cruz was my boxer of the tournament as his exquisite skills proved far too much for all his opponents and providing he stays clear of injury it’s hard to see anyone coming close to him in the future. The fight of the tournament came in the semi-finals as light flyweights Hasanboy Dusmatov and Yurberjen Martinez served up 9 minutes of exhilarating action in a bout that was more than worthy of being the final. Finally, whilst there were many established names who achieves silverware there were also lots of new faces and exciting young pugilists who should be around for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Betting has been part of humanity's culture since before written history - and long before sports became what they are today. Over the millennia, various forms of gambling have emerged and disappeared but some of them - lotteries, games of chance, and betting on various events - have remained to this day. Today, the gambling industry is widespread, reaching most countries of the world, and generating billions in revenues each year, all this while maintaining a friendly relationship with the world of sports. Unfortunately, this is thought to be only the tip of the iceberg - there is an underground sports betting business with a negative influence on sports and athletes alike.
** WHEN BETS AND SPORTS GO HAND IN HAND
On one hand, the gambling world reaches out to sports more than once, providing players with sports-inspired games to play. Think of the popular slot machines at the Red Flush Casino - the venue has many such games that pay tribute to various sports, from fighting to football and many others. Even those who only play for Red Flush Progressive Jackpots will play them every now and again, and there are many Red Flush players that seek them out specifically to enjoy a game inspired by their favorite sport.Betting groups also support not only individual teams but the integrity of the world of sports as a whole. Aside from their sponsorship deals with various sports teams, the biggest betting groups in Europe have formed an industry group that has maintaining the fairness and cleanness of the sports world as its goal. The ESSA (Sports Betting Integrity) was created to eliminate betting-related corruption, to monitor potentially illegal betting patterns, and to inform authorities about their suspicion of illegal practices. ESSA’s membership includes the majority of the major licensed on and offline private betting operators, in and outside of Europe.
** WHEN THINGS GO BAD
Unfortunately, there are many territories - including many Asian countries and North American states - where regulated sports betting is not available. People still want to bet, though, which makes them seek out illegal options as an alternative. There is no way to know exactly just how big and far-reaching illegal betting is worldwide but estimates speak of hundreds of millions in bets placed beyond the reach of authorities each year. Unbound by regulations and laws, the stakeholders behind these practices don't shy away from bending reality their way with the use of bribes or even blackmail. Such influence is not only affecting athletes but judges and officialities, too - allegations of referees participating in match fixing have emerged not long before the start of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, resulting in the suspension of several of them.The influence of illegal gambling on sports is not only bad for the respective sports' authorities and governing bodies but rips out the heats of the sports' true fans.
By Marcus Bellinger-
It was time for the finals of the 2017 world championships in Hamburg Germany and there were 7 Asian boxers going for gold.
We began at light flyweight (49kg) as Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos went up against Olympic champion Hasanboy Dusmatov from Uzbekistan. Both landed eye catching single shots in a close first round with Dusmatov on the front foot and Argilagos looking to counter. Dusmatov targeted the body very effectively in round 2 and whilst Argilagos displayed excellent movement he was being forced backwards and simply wasn’t doing enough offensively. The last round again saw Dusmatov pressing the action but it was the Cuban who got the judge’s verdict by split decision.
The flyweights (52kg) were up next with Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia taking on Uzbekistan’s Jasurbek Latipov. Veitia showed plenty of patients and edged a fairly quiet opening stanza. Latipov struggle to find the range for most of round 2 but the Uzbek had some minor success as the round progressed. Latipov loaded up on the right hand in the final 3 minutes but Veitia caught Latipov with a cracking body shot resulting in a standing 8 count and it was the Cuban who claimed the deserved unanimous decision.
The bantamweight (56kg) final was contested between Kazakhstan’s Kairat Yeraliyev and America’s Duke Ragan. Both landed with a few flurries in a nip and tuck opening round. The pace picked up significantly in round 2 with the greater volume coming from Yeraliyev but the accuracy was with Ragan. The 3rd round was very messy with lots of clinching and wrestling and as we went to the cards it was Yeraliyev who took the split decision in a pretty poor bout in all honesty.
It was Uzbekistan v Cuba at light welterweight (64kg) with Ikboljon Kholdarov versus Andy Cruz. Cruz produced a boxing masterclass in the opening round with Kholdarov being picked off with consummate ease. Round 2 followed a similar vein and Kholdarov had an absolute mountain to climb. The Uzbek tried everything he could but to no avail and Cruz romped home to a unanimous decision producing as good a boxing display as you could wish to see.
Next up at welterweight (69kg) Uzbekistan’s Shakhram Giyasov faced Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias. Giyasov made a really bright start and outworked Iglesias in round 1. There were some terrific exchanges in the 2nd but Giyasov continued to be far busier than his opponent. Iglesias came in to things at the beginning of the 3rd but Giyasov would not be denied and the Uzbek claimed the gold via a thoroughly deserved unanimous point’s verdict.
The middleweights (75kg) then entered the ring with Abilkhan Amankul from Kazakhstan squaring off against Oleksandr Khyzhniak. Khyzhniak flew out of the blocks to begin round 1 but Amankul used the range to land some quality straight punches in an entertaining stanza. The Ukrainian maintained his incessant pressure in round 2 and Amankul was fading rapidly. Khyzhniak’s relentless bombardment never stopped in the final 3 minutes and he prevailed by unanimous decision to take gold.
Lastly at super heavyweight (+91kg) Kanshybek Kunkabayev from Kazakhstan took on Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov. Majidov attempted to close the distance but was caught with a few decent shots from Kunkabayev in a first round containing little action. Majidov had fantastic success with the left hook in round 2 and a clash of heads left Kunkabayev with a cut which only gave the Azeri even more encouragement. Kunkabayev held the centre of the ring at the start of the 3rd but he simply was unable to halt the forward march of Majidov and it was the man from Azerbaijan who was declared the winner via split decision.
By Marcus Bellinger-
The 2nd day of semi-final action took place in Hamburg with the other 10 finalists being decided.
At flyweight (52kg) Korea’s Kim Inkyu had Uzbekistan’s Jasurbek Latipov in the other corner. Kim made the aggressive start and took the fight to Latipov but a right hand made the Korean touch down but no count was issued. Kim really loaded up on his punches in round 2 but the accuracy was badly lacking from both men. Again in round 3 there was a huge amount of missing until Latipov caught Kim with a solid right hand and it was the Uzbek who took the unanimous decision to move on to the final where he will face Yosbany Veitia who prevailed via split decision over Russia’s Tamir Galanov.
At lightweight (60kg) Mongolia’s Otgondalai Dorjnyambu was up against France’s Sofiane Oumiha. Dorjnyambu was on the front foot from the get go and made a very positive start but the Mongolian suffered a cut and Oumiha was finding his timing by the end of the first stanza. The Frenchman carried on his good work from the end of round 1 in to the 2nd, tagging Dorjnyambu repeatedly with the counter right hand. Both landed with quality shots in a thoroughly enjoyable final 3 minutes but it was Oumiha who claimed the unanimous verdict and he will take on Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez who saw off Otar Eranosyan of Georgia by unanimous decision.
It was an all Asian contest at welterweight (69kg) with Uzbek Shakhram Giyasov versus Kazak Ablaikhan Zhussupov. Both landed a few single shots of note in an otherwise quiet opening round. Giyasov upped the tempo and landed numerous right hands in round 2 and a previously suffered cut opened up giving Zhussupov an extra issue to deal with. Zhussupov caught Giyasov with a terrific left hand right at the start of round 3 with Giyasov retaliating almost immediately. The pair then gave it their all for the rest of the round but it was Giyasov who advanced to the final via split decision where he will square off against Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias who overcame Germany’s Abass Barraou by split decision.
Up next were the light heavyweights (81kg) and Ireland’s Joe Ward took on Bektemir Melikuziev from Uzbekistan with the winner to face formidable Cuban Julio Cesar La Cruz who beat Ecuador’s Carlos Mina by unanimous decision. Ward was content to fight on the back foot and was very comfortable in the opening stanza. Melikuziev pressed the action a lot more in round 2 and had far more success as the 2 met in some toe-to-toe exchanges. The Uzbek was putting everything in to his punches but Ward landed the cleaner shots and it was the Irishman who won the split decision in a very tight contest that could have easily gone the other way.
Finally it was time for the big men at super heavyweight (91+kg) and Kazakhstan’s Kanshybek Kunkabayev took on Cameroon’s Fokou Arsene. Kunkabayev controlled proceedings in the first as Arsene telegraphed his big right hand. Arsene was beginning to gain some momentum in round 2 before a right jab resulted in a standing 8 count and the man from Cameroon needed a big turnaround. Despite his best efforts in the 3rd Arsene had come up short and it was Kunkabayev who gained the unanimous points victory and the Kazak will be up against Azerbaijan’s Mahammadrasul Majidov who overcame Australia’s Joe Goodall on a split decision.
By Marcus Bellinger-
We are now at the semi-final stage in the 2017 world championships in Hamburg and there was still plenty of Asian interest.
Kicking things off at light flyweight (49kg) Cuba’s Joahnys Argilagos was up against Kazakhstan’s Zhomart Yerzhan. Both were incredibly measured and patient in the opening round with Argilagos just about getting the better of things. The pace remained the same in round 2 and Argilagos was in cruise control and Yerzhan needed to change tactics and quickly. Yerzhan finally landed a good southpaw left in round 3 but was immediately met with a response and the Cuban eased home to a unanimous decision win.
The 2nd semi at light flyweight (49kg) was a rematch of last year’s Olympic final with Colombia’s Yurberjen Martinez versus Hasanboy Dusmatov from Uzbekistan. Martinez as per norm was on the front foot and set a very high tempo but Dusmatov went with the Colombian in a tight opening round of the highest calibre. Dusmatov displayed outstanding accuracy in the 2nd round but the work rate of Martinez never relented. In a sensational last stanza Martinez hammered away at the body with Dusmatov looking to pick his shots but it was the Uzbek who prevailed via unanimous decision in a real treat that was worthy of being the final.
It was then on to the bantamweights (56kg) and Kazak Kairat Yeraliyev took on England’s Peter McGrail. McGrail used the southpaw left hand to good effect in a closely fought opening round where Yeraliyev also enjoyed his successes. Yeraliyev picked up the pace in round 2 but McGrail was still moving well and it was all to play for going in to the last. Yeraliyev seem to be struggling with the pace slightly in the final round but the Kazak did enough to take the unanimous verdict.
The other bantamweight (56kg) semi was a tussle between India and America with Gaurav Bidhuri against Duke Ragan. Ragan had the quicker hands and boxed well from range but Bidhuri landed with a good counter right hand in the opening round. The aggression was being shown by Bidhuri but the quality punches were coming from Ragan who boxed extremely well in the 2nd round. Despite his effort Bidhuri was frustrated and unable to get inside and was outclassed by Ragan who took the unanimous decision.
In the light welterweight (64kg) division Freddy Rojas from the US squared off against Uzbekistan’s Ikboljon Kholdarov. Both men launched big shots in a quite scrappy and wild opening 3 minutes. Kholdarov scored with some big shots in round 2 but Rojas was content to box at range and keep the punches long. As well as plenty of missing both landed with some hard shots in an exciting final round but it was Kholdarov who claimed the split points win and he will face Cuba’s Andy Cruz who put on an exhibition to defeat Armenia’s Hovhannes Bachkov.
Moving on to the middleweights (75kg) and Abilkhan Amankul of Kazakhstan faced Kamran Shakhsuvarly of Azerbaijan. Shakhsuvarly landed a solid shot in the early stages but Amankul maintained his composure and fought well at distance for much of the rest of the opening round. Shakhsuvarly buckled Amankul with a big hook in round 2 and landed the harder shots. The Kazak responded brilliantly in round 3, boxing from range and outworking his opponent and he got the split decision to advance to the final where he will meet Ukraine’s Oleksandr Khyzhniak who proved too strong for America’s Troy Isley.
Finally it was time for the heavyweights (91kg) and Russia’s Evgeny Tishchenko clashed with Sanjar Tursunov from Uzbekistan. Tishchenko was allowed to fight at his own pace in the opening round. Tursunov had more success in the 2nd but he wasn’t throwing enough punches. Tursunov looked for the knockout punch but it never looked like coming and Tishchenko went through to the final via unanimous decision.
The other last 4 encounter at heavyweight (91kg) was an Olympic semi-final rematch from last year with Vassiliy Levit from Kazakhstan versus Cuba’s Erislandy Savon. Both exchanged jabs in a tight and tense opening stanza. Levit came in to things more in round 2 but the pace and the distance were still suiting Savon more. Savon then used the jab to great effect in the last 3 minutes to claim the deserved split decision.
When we have some free time we're hoping to add a series of fun articles to the site. Hopefully these will be enjoyable little short features