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Country building new academy, competing for leadership posts
By Vsevolod Khvan
ALMATY – A country with a respectable record in boxing since Soviet times, Kazakhstan seriously intends to enter the ranks of world leaders.
Not only the performance of Kazakhstani boxers but also the relevant infrastructure has improved considerably, Kazakhstani commentators say.
Bakhyt Sarsekbayev and Bakhtiyar Artayev gained international fame as Olympic gold medallists in 2008 and 2004, respectively, in the -69kg class. Serik Sapiyev is a two-time world champion in the -64kg class. Women’s boxing has been developing too, with Marina Volnova winning silver in the -75kg class at last year’s International Boxing Association (AIBA) women’s world championships in Barbados.
National team coach Bolat Abdrakhmanov shared Kazakhstan’s boxing achievements because of recent changes in the country’s boxing leadership.
“After Timur Kulibayev (chairman of the Samruk-Kazyna National Welfare Foundation) became Boxing Federation president, the sport received a major financial boost,” he said.
“Also, we’ve been co-operating closely with the AIBA, making it a priority for young boxers in small towns throughout Kazakhstan to have all the equipment they need for training.”
Progress didn’t take long, Abdrakhmanov said. “The sport is booming all across the country today, especially in the provinces, and this gives us an incentive to move forward.
Amateur boxers currently united within the Federation will make the world speak highly of Kazakhstani boxers more than once.”
Kazakhstan’s international standing has improved too, he added. “We’ve shown that we, as a federation, set serious targets. Almaty hosted the elections of the AIBA president last year and a congress of the Asian Boxing Confederation a short while ago, at which our representative became part of the leadership.”
Sapiyev, who also took gold at the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou, said Kazakhstan can legitimately be called a world boxing power.
“In the past, referees at big sports competitions would often rule against us,” he said. “Today, they ... treat us with due respect, and we don’t worry anymore that referees may spoil a fight; we enter the ring as favourites.”
Earlier this month, the Asian Boxing Confederation decided to move its office to Almaty – “an historic decision,” according to Kenes Rakishev, the confederation’s vice-president for its Central Zone.
Those are not the only big plans in Kazakhstani boxing, Abdrakhmanov noted. “The construction of the first international boxing academy is starting in Almaty this year, where boxers, coaches and referees from around the world will be trained,” he said. “Also, Astana will play host to the AIBA World Junior Boxing Championships this June, and it’s been decided almost for certain that the 2013 world amateur boxing championships will take place in Kazakhstan. “
“The academy construction will give a new boost to the development of amateur boxing in Kazakhstan and the world over,” Abdrakhmanov said. “For example, of the nearly 800 coaches working in this country, none has an official license. At the academy, they will receive due training and appropriate qualifications. That’ll be a great project.”
Kazakhstan hopes its boxing achievements will make the sport more popular in the Islamic world and throughout Asia. “The Asian continent is becoming a world boxing leader, which is indeed inspiring,” Rakishev said. “But there are many higher targets that have to be achieved.”
Improvements in Kazakhstani boxers’ international standing should help make the sport more popular among young people at home, he noted.
“Many have taken a liking to boxing also because the national TV channels have regularly covered – beginning this year – all the major domestic competitions, national championships and international boxing tournaments,” Rakishev said.
Zhakyp Vekilov, 14, a student of High School No. 136 in Almaty, has boxed for two years now.
“I came to the boxing school together with a classmate, and I like it a lot here,” he said. “I dream, when I grow up, of qualifying for an Olympiad or a world championship and becoming a world-renowned professional boxer.”