World Championship Boxing, 2007, Chicago, USA
This is the first World Championship where boxers who made it to the quarter finals became qualified for the 2008 Olympics Games in Beijing, China. Over one thousand boxers representing over more than one hundred countries showed up in Chicago to participate.
I had also hoped to participate more fully, but my student Shemuel Pagan, who I co-train with his father, Robert, lost in the semi final of the US Olympic trials. But even as a fan, I was excited and involved in the competitions.
Friends, Friends, Friends … From Kazakhstan, from Russian, from Israel, from Turkey, from Ukraine, Germany, USA…
I’ve been friends with Ken Porter since 2004, since the Jr. Olympic National Championships, where his son and my student Sasha Mamoshuk won Gold. His son Shawn lost at the Olympic trial; however, they still came to Chicago to support the US Olympic Team.
Two weeks passed like one day.
My old friend Sergey Kudrayvtsev traveled all the way from Kaliningrad, Russia to Chicago. Sergey was already the Soviet Union, Jr. Olympics Champion when I took my first step in boxing. That was in Kazakhstan in 1976. This time Sergey brought his student, Silver Medalist, Alexey Shaydulin, who represented Bulgaria in the 2005 World Championship.
This was the first time in twenty five years I’d seen Bolat Mankenov, my team mate from Kazakhstan. In the 1980’s we spent a lot of time together in training camps in the Soviet Union.
Now Bolat Mankenov is the National Director of Coaches of Kazakhstan.
Tatania Gutsu, the 1992 (Barcelona) All Around Gymnastic Olympic Champion (http://www.tatianagutsu.com ), came to Chicago from Detroit to meet with her friends …
Once again, I met with Serik Konokbaev, amateur boxing star of the 1980’s, who I trained with in Kazakhstan. …
Serik Konokbaev, a member of the Kazakhstan Parliament, is currently working to improve the state of amateur boxing in Kazakhstan. Their Olympic team is not as tough this year as it was in previous years. Only two true prospects remain on the team: Bakhtiyar Artayev, Athens Olympic Champion and “Outstanding Boxer of the Olympic Games;” and Serik Sapiyev who just became a two time world champion this year in Chicago where Artayev won the bronze.
Head Coach of Kazakhstan Boxing, Damir Budambekov, was the first Under-19 Soviet Union Champion in the city where I was trained, Jambul (now Taraz).
His team brought 1 gold medal and 2 bronze medals from the World Championships this year in Chicago.
I haven’t seen Valery Alekseev (from Podolsk, Russia) and Nurik Talibov (from Kaspisk, Russia) in 15 years. We were coaches together in Russia in the 1980’s. In 1988, our boxers won the Russian Junior Olympic National Championship in Kolomna.
My friend Valery Alekseev brought his student, European Champion 2006, Andrey Balanov to Chicago, where he was captain of the Russian team. I’ve known Andrey from his first days in boxing. He did not qualify for the Olympics in Chicago, but I hope he will qualify this March in Italy.
I have not seen my friend Nurik except for on TV in the last two Olympic Games when he was representing the Azerbajan National Boxing Team. In Chicago, his student, Albert Selimov, won the gold in 125 lb category. He will represent Russia in China.
It had been a really long time since I had seen my old friend from Moscow, Oleg Menshikov. In this world championship, his boxer, Sergey Vodopyanov, won the gold medal in the 119 lb category. This will be the second Olympic Games for my friend, Oleg.
The first time I met Georgy Balakshin was in 1997 in the European Under-19 Championships in Birmingham, England where I was the Head Coach of the Israeli National Boxing Team. Balakshin won the gold. One year later, we met again in the Under-19 World Championships in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where he won the silver. The judges robbed him in the final. After this, I only saw him in the Olympics on TV. We met again in Chicago. He lost in the quarter final to Raushee Warren from Team USA.
Warren is, in my opinion, currently the most outstanding boxer of the world. Raushee Warren, 112 lb gold medalist, and another Team USA member, 152 lb Demetrius Andrade, both won gold medals in Chicago. They showed the world how America is still rich with talented boxers.