Kazakhstan punches its way to the global clear ring

Boxing is getting Kazakhstan further on the world sports map. In summer this year, the  World Junior Boxing Championship is to be held in Astana, while in Almaty the construction of the first international boxing academy under the banner of the International Boxing Association (AIBA) is poised to start.

by Charles van der Leeuw, KZW senior contributor

Kazakhstan punches its way to the global clear ringAt a press conference held last Sunday, AIBA President, Dr Ching-Kuo Wu, who had come to Almaty in order to attend the opening ceremony of the Kazakhstan National Boxing Championships in Almaty, noted that the Asian Winter Games held recently had given Kazakhstan something to build on. “With this, Kazakhstan has shown the world that it has the capacity t organise major sport events in the world,” Ching stated. With the junior world championship, to be held in Astana in July this year, Kazakhstan can in a similar manner pave the way to host the World Boxing Championships in the future, an honour which for this year has fallen to Baku.

During the press meeting, another agreement was signed for the construction of the first AIBA Boxing Academy in Almaty. The plan was approved by the 2010 AIBA Congress in October last year. Construction is set to start within a few months from now after the approval of the final design. Dr. Ching also expressed his thanks for the support of the Kazakhstan government’s grant of 33 million US dollars to build the academy, which will be managed in close cooperation with the Kazakh Boxing Federation (KBF). “Today is an historical day for AIBA and the global boxing family, since it marks the start of a project that will create a place for young boxers, coaches, referees and judges, ringside doctors and administrators from all national federations to obtain the knowledge and experience required to become the future leaders in our sport and their national federations,” Dr. Wu told the press conference.

Kazakhstan punches its way to the global clear ringThe press conference came a day after an official meeting between AIBA and KBF, during which the President of the KBF, Mr Timur Kulibayev, delivered his federation’s plans to support the development of boxing in Kazakhstan and worldwide. “We, Kazakhstan, plan to be one of the leading countries in boxing, for the best interests of our boxers in both Kazakhstan and worldwide,” a press release from AIBA quoted Kulibaeyv as stating. “With the success of hosting the 2010 AIBA Congress, the 2011 World Junior Championships, the 2012 Asian Olympic Qualifying Event and the AIBA Boxing Academy, we would like to contribute our energy and resources to develop the sport of boxing. We also plan to submit to AIBA a bid to host the 2013 World Championships.”

Almaty has also become the location of the new headquarters of the Asian Boxing Confederation (ASBC). “Following AIBA’s suggestion, the ASBC Headquarters is located in the same city as the AIBA Boxing Academy in order to provide synergies that will benefit many national federations,” the AIBA noted in a statement. By clustering these activities, Kazakhstan has a good chance to become a world centre to develop the boxing sector. The Almaty academy plans to educate not just boxers but also coaches, referees and medics to world standard professional levels. This will give it a chance to play a key role in fighting corruption in the sports world and raise the awareness of the importance of fair play to all involved, as Danyar Abylghazin, chairman of the ASBC, noted.

Kazakhstan’s modern-day sport history took off in the early XXth Century with the rise of the legendary wrestling champion Haddzhimukan Munaytpasov (Mungaytpasuli in Kazakh). Born in 1871 in the northern province of Akmola in the village of Karaotkyel, not that far from today’s capital Astana. Through his life, he took part in contests in 54 countries and won 48 medals, His career culminated in 1910 as he became world champion in Greco-Roman wrestling for the first time in Buenos Aires. Later, he defeated the Japanese jui-jitsu champion Harakiki Jindofu, who little later died of a spine injury he had got during the fight. Two movies were made about his life and times by the Soviets in 1978 and 1985 respectively.

Among Kazakhstan’s contemporary boxing stars is Beibut Shumenov, 27 years old and classified as light heavyweight, weighing 175 pound. Shumenov, who nowadays lives in Las Vegas, started his world career by representing Kazakhstan at the 2004 Olympics in Greece. Today, he is putting Kazakhstan on the world boxing map in a way few others can boast of. “In a relatively short time, though, Shumenov has ascended to the top of the light heavyweight division as a pro, using an accelerated approach by fighting and defeating  three world champions Montell Griffin, Byron Mitchell and Gabriel Campillo) and another world title challenger (Epifanio Mendoza) in his first 10 fights,” a local sport magazine called Last Vegas wrote in summer last year. “Now fighting out of Las Vegas, Beibut still remains a mysterious prize fighter in the country he now lives and trains in. […]Kazakhstan, indeed, is a hot bed for boxing. Last January, when he captured the WBA crown, Shumenov joined featherweight Aratoly Alexandrov, heavyweight, Oleg “Big O’ Maskaev and cruiserweight Vassily “The Tiger” Jirov as the only Kazakh-born professional world boxing champions. Fellow countrymen, welterweight Vitaliy Demyanenko and middleweight Gennady Golovkin, are top contemporary contenders.”

Apart from fighting in the ring, Shumenov along with his brother, Chingis, owns a full-service boxing promotional company based in Las Vegas, KZ Event Productions, which works under contract partnership with its global peer Goossen Tutor Promotions. Among the company’s recent activities was the international tournament held in Shymkent, Shumenov’s original home town. “Led by WBA/IBA Light Heavyweight Beibut Shumenov’s successful title defense against 3-time world champion William Joppy in the January 8th main event, KZ Event Productions’ trip of undefeated fighters – Ravshan Hudaynazarov, Alexandr Zhuravskiy and Gayrat Ahemedov – all turned in winning performances January 8 at the Ice Mansion in Shymkent, Kazakhstan,” a report published by the enterprise in the aftermath of the event read.

According to the report, some boxing history was written in Shymkent. “In the co-feature, Uzbekistan native Hudaynazarov (14-0, 12 KOs), rated No. 13 by the WBA, won the WBA FEDALATIN Welterweight title by 10th-round technical knockout due to a deep cut over Jose Luis “Chelin” Cruz’ right eye,” the text reads further. “A devastating body puncher, the 26-year-old Hudaynazarov dropped Cruz (41-8-2, 33 KOs) with a left hook to the liver late in the opening round, but his Mexican opponent proved to be as tough as advertised. […] In his KZ Event Productions debut, former Kazakhstan National Amateur Champion  Zhuravskiy (11-0, 8 KOs), now fighting out of Las Vegas, kept his perfect pro record intact by knocking out Ruben “Modern Day” Galvan in the sixth round to capture the WBA International Super Lightweight Championship. Zhuravskiy methodically broke-down Galvan, who had been stopped only twice in 45 previous fights, flooring him with a left and then immediately jumping on him with a 1-2 combination that ended the fight. Unbeaten Interim PABA Light Heavyweight Gayrat Ahemedov (16-0-1, 10 KOs), rated No. 6 by the WBA, successfully defended that belt and added the WBC International crown to his collection when Tursunboy Absullakimov was unable to answer the bell to start the fifth round.”