Kazakhstan brings to the London 2012 Olympic Games one of the most impressive boxing squads in the whole competition. A total of eleven fighters will be taking to the ring at the ExCeL, including two women, and each will have big medal aspirations. The country has claimed at least one gold medal in each of the last three editions of the Olympic Games and their fighters are well equipped to continue that fine tradition when the boxing gets underway on 28 July.
The Welterweight (69kg) category is traditionally Kazakhstan's territory when it comes to medals at the Olympic Games. In 2004, Bakhtiyar Artayev claimed the gold and was awarded the Val Barker Trophy, given to the best boxer of the whole Olympic competition, while Bakhyt Sarsekbayev was crowned champion in Beijing four years later. Their current Welterweight No.1 is their team captain, Serik Sapiyev, a two-time AIBA World Champion and silver medallist at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, will lead the charges in the British capital. The explosive southpaw, who was defeated by Ukraine's Taras Shelestyuk in the Azeri capital last year, will be seeking to emulate his predecessors and continue his country's fine tradition. A member of his national squad since 2003, Sapiyev has always showcased his best when on the international stage and many will feel that this can be his year. After losing in the quarter-finals in Beijing in 2008, the 28-year-old knows this is probably his last chance to shine at the Olympic Games.
The second big gold medal contender in the team is 21-year-old Asian Games winner Daniyar Yeleussinov, who was in sensational form in April when he won the Light Welterweight (64kg) category at the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifying Event Astana 2012. The talented southpaw was a silver medallist at the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championships before dominating all of his rivals at the Asian Games in Guangzhou when he was only 19. Yeleussinov has got the skills to claim the gold medal in London but he will have to be on top of his game if he is to achieve the feat.
Adilbek Niyazymbetov secured the second silver medal for Kazakhstan at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku where he was stopped by Cuba's Julio Cesar la Cruz in the final. The 23-year-old Light Heavyweight (81kg) will know that he can go one step further after he triumphed over his Cuban rival at the Republic of Kazakhstan President's Cup in Almaty earlier this year. Niyazymbetov recently stated, "In 2011 I lost to the Cuban boxer and had to settle for silver in Baku but I know now how to beat him. When I meet la Cruz in London, I will win the bout. Preparing for the Olympic Games, I am focused on winning only the gold medal".
The country's women's team will have two representatives at the Olympic Games with Asian Lightweight (60kg) Champion Saida Khassenova, who was defeated at the AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships Qinhuangdao 2012 by Ireland's four-time AIBA World Champion Katie Taylor, and Middleweight (75kg) Marina Volnova, who went down a weight class and was selected to participate by the Tripartite Quota Commission.
Back with the men, Light Flyweight (46-49kg) No.1 and former AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Birzhan Zhakypov ensured his presence at the Olympic Games by winning the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifying Event Astana 2012 and will be travelling to the British capital with gold medal aspirations. Astana-based Ilyas Suleimenov was silver medallist at the last Asian Championships in Incheon and impressed after also taking gold in his home town and grabbing that all important Olympic quota place.
Kanat Abutalipov became the first Kazak boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games after claiming the inaugural World Series of Boxing season's 2011 Individual Championships Bantamweight (56kg) belt. In May, he also triumphed at the Republic of Kazakhstan President's Cup and beat the current AIBA World Champion Lazaro Alvarez of Cuba in the process.
Strong Lightweight (60kg) fighter Gani Zhailauov took home a bronze medal from the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 and will now seek to better that performance in London. 27-year-old Middleweight (75kg) Danabek Suzhanov will be hoping to spring a surprise in his category while 22-year-old Super Heavyweight (+91kg) AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Ivan Dychko is another who has both the skills and the know-how to challenge for the top honours at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
With so much talent in their squad, the Kazak team will be looking to continue their fine tradition of Olympic medals when the action kicks-off at the ExCeL London on 28 July.
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