ASTANA – The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA) women’s world championships opened May 19 in the capital. This year, the tournament’s already high status rose even further. In the rings inside Barys Arena, not only world championship medals, but licenses to participate in the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, are contested.
Two hundred and eighty-five fighters from 67 countries are slated to participate. Each country could delegate up to 10 boxers, according to the number of weight categories. In each of the three Olympic categories of up to 51, 60 and 75 kg, four licenses for the Games are up for grabs.
The Kazakh women’s national team already has one ticket to the Olympics. Dariga Shakimova won the license at an earlier qualification tournament in China.
Boxing fans are interested that Katie Taylor of Ireland and Mary Kom of India are seeking to set a record by winning the sixth world championship titles of their careers. In addition to Taylor, London 2012 Olympic champions Claressa Shields of the U.S. and Nicola Adams of Great Britain, as well as silver medallist Ren Cancan of China, were among the pre-tournament favourites.
The event raises the bar once again for women’s boxing in the world, said AIBA President Ching-Kuo Wu, who expressed hope Kazakhstan will become a reference point on which to measure the level of future competitions.
The Kazakh fighters began their tournament journey with confidence. Zarina Tsoloyeva (64 kg) beat Ha Thi Linh of Vietnam and Valentina Khalzova (69 kg) completed the early battle against Korean Noh Heemin. In up to 75 kg category, Violetta Knyazeva defeated Caitlin Parker from Australia, bronze medallist at the 2014 Junior Olympics.
On the second day, Nazym Kyzaibai, the 2014 world champion in the up to 48 kg category, continued the winning streak and left no chance for her Polish opponent, Angelica Gronska.
“The first fight in a tournament is always a hard one. I think I worked well in all four rounds. I fought to the end and claimed a victory,” said Kyzaibai.
Zhaina Shekerbekova (51 kg) then debuted in the event and the boxer from South Kazakhstan defeated Lescurat Clara of Argentina. Unfortunately, Rimma Volosenko (60 kg) became the first member in the Kazakh team to drop from the tournament. In a tough fight, she gave way to Yvonne Rasmussen from Denmark.
In the up to 54 kg category, Dina Zholaman defeated Ornella Wagner from Germany. Valentina Khalzova (69 kg) also pleased the host fans by winning against Shakhnoza Nizamova of Uzbekistan. The following day, Khalzova did not leave a chance for Argentinian Lucia Perez.
“My opponent, of course, this time was a bigger challenge than the previous one. However, the fight showed that I keep my word. Again, I came here to win. And thanks a lot to the fans who inspire me to great deeds!” said Khalzova after the match.
Aizhan Khojabekova (up to 57 kg) debuted in the world championships with a victory. Her rival, Maryna Malovana from Ukraine, gave strong resistance, but she survived.
“Our team is determined. I think this tournament for our team has progressed quite well so far. Of course, of great importance to us is the support of the home stands. They help us to achieve victories,” said Kazakh national team head coach Vadim Prisyazhnyuk.
Serik Sapiyev, champion of the 2012 Olympic Games, gave another call to support Kazakhstan’s national team in the major international tournament.
“The most important role behind the fact that the World Championship takes place in Astana was played by Kazakhstan’s boxing authority and the latest victories of our fighters in a tournament of the highest rank. AIBA knows well at what a high organisational level we can hold competitions. We hope our athletes, motivated by the support of native stands, will be able to show good results in the home ring,” he said.
The AIBA Championships will run until May 27.