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.