Author: Sanan SAFIZADA Baku
The first boxing tournament of 2015 - the national senior championship, a very important one in shaping the national side - has ended at the Sagan Olympic complex. Over 150 boxers took part, representing teams from towns and districts all over the country. But several members of the national team did not take part. Some of them were preparing for the new WBS (World Boxing Series) league season with the Baku Fires club. And the latest bouts in the AIBA Pro-Boxing tournament await Cavid Calabiyev (56kg), Tamerlan Abdullayev (69kg) and Maham-madrasul Macidov (over 91kg).
Held for the second time without helmets, the tournament demonstrated the ambitions of the country's top boxers with regard to making the national side.
There were no surprises in the lightest weight category, where there has always been a lot of competition. Salman Alizada ran out the expected winner, the 2011 European champion beating Hacibaba Farziyev in the final. Alizada's win showed he is back to his best form. World champion four years ago, Salman once again strengthened his place in the country's main team.
One of the first sensations in the Azerbaijani championship was the victory of Masud Yusifzada, world youth champion, in the 52kg category. Showing high skill and great boxing technique, Yusifzada won four bouts to reach the final where he met Azerbaijani Cup winner Araz Imamaliyev. With a convincing victory in the final, the Rabita club boxer was awarded the gold medal of the Azerbaijani championship for the first time in his career. This success showed that Masud was ready to compete with the seniors.
Along with Masud Yusifzada, another star shone in the 56kg category. With world champion Cavid Calabiyev absent, the find of the championship was Tayfur Aliyev, who was taking part in the senior championship for the first time. The 17-year old looked pretty confident in the final where he beat Rahim Nacafov, captain of the national side for many years. Tayfur will now be invited to the national team camp in February where it will be up to him to prove that his victory against one of our two strongest boxers was no fluke. But beaten finalist Rahim Nacafov will have to ponder on his career, otherwise he could be a spectator at the European Games in Baku.
In the 60kg category Elvin Isayev once again became Azerbaijani champion, proving he is the strongest. In the final he beat Vusal Verdiyev from Ganca of the Gilan club. Isayev's success in this category had been forecast in advance. Elnur Aliyev became champion in the 64kg category after seeing off all his rivals, whilst Xazar Aliyev had to be content with a silver medal.
Elvin Quliyev (69kg) had a fairly easy ride to the championship. With Tamerlan Abdullayev, who is regarded as one of the strongest in this category, unavailable, Quliyev reached the final after four consecutive victories. He faced Roman Zakirov in the decisive bout, but his opponent could not make the ring because of injury and Elvin took the gold without having to fight.
One of the key finals in the Azerbaijani championship was in the 75kg category where there was great interest in the meeting between Qaybulla Mursalov, whom we know well from the WSB league, and Kamran Sahsuvarli. Mursalov, the more experienced fighter from the Gilan club, triumphed.
There was also a duel between two key rivals in the 81kg category, where Vatan Huseynli, who sealed his place in the national side after the "heavier" Teymur Mammadov had switched to a different weight category, came up against Rauf Rahimov. It was Rauf who triumphed. European champion and bronze winner at the London Olympics and the world championships, Teymur Mammadov (91kg) showed he is the strongest in this category, beating Rahil Mammadli in the final.
Asaf Aslanli was injured and could not make the final and victory in the super-heavyweight category went to Kamran Mehdiyev. However, I don't think that Kamran will be able to compete in the over 91kg with twice world champion Magomedrasul Macidov. It is common knowledge that the latter has a safe place in the national side without even taking part in the championship, whereas Kamran is still number two.
In summing up the Azerbaijani championship, one should make special mention of Rabita. There are some good boxers training at this club, which took first place for the second time in a row. Second place in the team category went to Gilan, and third to Neftci.
The national championship raised doubts about the participation of a number of aspiring boxers in the national side. Although last year's Azerbaijan champion Lorenzo Sotomayor (64kg) won his first bout, he failed to reach the final. This naturalized foreigner ended the championships with only one victory. The Cuban boxer's defeat to Xazar Aliyev from Lankaran placed his participation in the national team in doubt.
World youth champion Saban Sahpalangov, who was returning to the ring after a long break, also lost 0-3 in his second bout to the experienced Elnur Aliyev. When Sahpalangov came back from the world youth championships with a gold medal five years ago, many people predicted a bright future for him. After justifying hopes at the junior Olympics, Saban has not performed well in adult competitions. The feeling is that the boxer, who went out in the quarter-final in the national championship, has problems with his preparation and discipline.
The Azerbaijani national team will begin its preparations in February with four training camps at which the boxers will be tested at international tournaments. At the first stage all the country's championship medallists will be invited to the national side, and in spring the coaching staff will pick the side that will defend the country's honour at the first European Games in Baku.