IBA Boxing in 2023 Part 2 – a retrospective of action in the ring by Ronald McIntosh

January 24th, 2024 / IBA

Meet Ronald McIntosh, a leading IBA commentator and your voice behind the boxing action of the highest level. Ronald is an award-winning sports broadcaster with vast experience in live network television and radio.

Ronald has provided ringside reportage from boxing’s most hallowed venues for a host of memorable moments in the sweet science, within IBA and professional boxing. He has commentated at five Olympic Games, multiple IBA World Championships, IBA Champions’ Nights and several other major sports events. In 2023, Ronald was shortlisted in the “Sports Commentator” category of 2023 Broadcast Sport awards in the UK.

The 2023 IBA Men’s World Boxing Championships was also staged in Asia, as Uzbekistan hosted the event for the first time.

I was ringside in 2017 to commentate on the Men’s Asian Championships, staged at the Uzbekistan Sport Complex in Tashkent. Six years on, the capital city of the Central Asian nation was once again the focal point for fans of IBA boxing, though this time it was the magnificent Humo Arena that housed the 23rd edition of the Men’s World Boxing Championships, a tournament first held in Havana, 1974.

Since that time, the inaugural host nation of Cuba has been a dominant force at the men’s global championships, topping the all-time medal table by garnering nearly twice as many medals as the second-placed nation.

Once again, the contingent from the Caribbean Island contained some iconic competitors, including the five-time, reigning World Champion Julio Cesar la Cruz and his compatriot Lazaro Alvarez, who featured in five consecutive IBA World Championship gold medal bouts from 2011 to 2019, winning three of them.

However, in what some observers characterised to as a changing of the guard, neither man progressed through to the medal stages in Tashkent.

Cuba, however, maintained their majestic record at IBA World Championships, as Yoenlis Hernandez won all five of his contests in the middleweight division. Installed as the tournament number two seed, Hernandez entered the ring for each of his bouts wearing attire adorned with gold livery: an innovation from IBA designating his supreme status as a reigning IBA World or Olympic champion. 

Having spoken to many of the boxers during the tournament, this seemingly small adaptation to the otherwise standard red or blue boxing uniforms was well received.  A champion’s privilege that must be earned, the subtle golden adornments serve to act as both an extra incentive for aspirants, while further adding to the air of majesty and mystique that comes with being a reigning global champion.

Hernandez extended his champion’s prerogative to have his vest and gown trimmed with gold, as he used his ringcraft and relaxed, loose-limbed style to pile up points with accurately picked punches. His gold medal bout against fellow stylist Wanderley Pereira of Brazil was a contest replete with skill. By prevailing on points, Hernandez emulated the accomplishments of countryman Ariel Hernandez and Russia’s Matvey Korobov, to become a two-time IBA World Champion in middleweight.

Just as India’s boxers seemed to draw extra energy and inspiration from the home fans at the 2023 Women’s World Championships in New Delhi to ultimately top the medal table, Uzbekistan’s men also used the passionate support from their fervent fans as fuel when fatigued. Uzbekistan ended the event as number one in the medal charts with five golds, one more than their Central Asian neighbours, Kazakhstan.

Bouts between men from these powerhouse boxing nations were contested in atmospheres that were simply incredible. I was commentating from ringside and the vibrations from the energetic cheering of the capacity crowd were positively visceral!

Three of the 13 finals featured Uzbekistan v Kazakhstan matchups. As is often the case when “derbies” are contested in sport, each of these bouts contained an added sense of pride and emotion. Never mind the small matter of IBA World Championship gold; bragging rights were on the line and up for grabs!

Uzbekistan’s Hasanboy Dusmatov knows all about Uzbekistan v Kazakhstan contests on the global stage. I was ringside commentating at the 2021 Men’s World Championships in Serbia, where Dusmatov, the 2016 Olympic champion and Val Barker trophy winner, was returning to IBA boxing after a sojourn into the professional ranks.

With no seedings or rankings being utilised in that tournament at Belgrade’s Stark Arena, Dusmatov was drawn against Kazakhstan’s Saken Bibossinov, the Olympic bronze medallist from Tokyo earlier in the year, in the first round of the 51kg flyweight bracket. In a high-quality contest that could have easily graced any global final, Bibossinov prevailed, putting paid to Dusmatov’s gold medal ambitions. Rather, it was Bibossinov went on to become World Champion, with a series of impressive performances.

Two years later on home soil, Dusmatov was in determined mood. Having reacclimated to the three-round format of IBA boxing, the compact southpaw was in scintillating form.

Dusmatov was unseeded and so began his quest for gold in the round of 64. He won his first three contests unanimously, before eliminating seeds number three, two and four with dazzling southpaw displays to claim his first World Championship gold, winning six bouts out of six! Earning his first world title on home soil sealed what was a sensational tournament for Hasanboy, who received his hard-won prize from the nation’s President.