Uzbekistan, Azberbaijan impress in first semis

17 May 2017
Uzbekistan's Aliyor Noraliev's Kuan (blue) and Azerbaijan's Elvin Isayev compete in thier Men's Light Welter (64kg) boxing bout during the Baku 2017.
Uzbekistan's Aliyor Noraliev's Kuan (blue) and Azerbaijan's Elvin Isayev compete in thier Men's Light Welter (64kg) boxing bout during the Baku 2017.

Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan both boosted their hopes of striking boxing gold at the 2017 Islamic Solidarity Games on Wednesday, as two men from each nation reached the gold-medal bouts in the first of two semi-final sessions.

The day actually began with disappointment for Uzbekistan - the nation that topped the boxing medal table at the 2016 Rio Olympics - as Mironshokh Ibragimov was overpowered by Syria's Hussin Almasri in the men's light flyweight (46-49kg) division.

After a cagey opening, Almasri began to probe Ibragimov's defences with a couple of subtle jabs to the body.

The Uzbek grew into the fight and briefly sent his opponent to the mat at the end of the first round, but the Syrian had more in the tank and progressed to the final on a split points decision.

Almasri will come up against Hasan Naser of Iraq, who edged Iran's Omid Ahmadisafa in the day's opening bout.

Naser, who began with much greater aggression, landed more blows and did enough to also reach the final on a split decision, while Ahmadisafa - Iran's only representative in the semi-finals - had to settle for boxing's first bronze medal.

Things began to look up for Uzbekistan as Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov dismissed home hopeful Tayfur Aliyev of Azerbaijan in the bantamweight (56kg) semis, by the day's first unanimous points decision.

Sharakhmatov silenced the vocal home support at Baku's Crystal Hall as he controlled the fight from start to finish, setting up a final showdown with Turkmenistan's Yakub Meredov.

Roared on by fans who had made the trip across the Caspian Sea, Meredov combined quick hands and a never-say-die attitude as he won a feisty encounter with Jordan's Mohammad Alwadi by split decision.

Uzbekistan's Aliyor Noraliev then produced a defensive masterclass to oust Kazakhstan's Kuan Kuatov in the light welterweight (64kg) semi-final.
The aggressive Kuatov had pummelled Turkmenistan's Zufar Saparbayev in the previous round, but found Noraliev a much tougher nut to crack.
The Uzbek was happy to soak up whatever Kuatov could throw at him and explode on the counter-attack, which he did to great effect in the second round in particular.

Nevertheless, it was something of a surprise to see the judges award the Uzbek the fight on a unanimous points decision, given that the Kazakh had dominated the latter stages.

Noraliev will come up against Eslam Mohamed in the light welterweight (64kg) final, after the Egyptian secured a narrow victory over Jordan's Obada Alkasbeh.

Azerbaijan finished the session on a high note as two of their boxers also progressed to Thursday's gold-medal bouts.

Kamran Shakhsuvarly - one of the host nation's 14 athlete ambassadors - made short work of Morocco's Youness Gharroumi as he reached the middleweight (75kg) final by unanimous decision.

He will take on Kazakhstan's Tursynbay Kulahmet, who had a similarly comfortable time against Cameroon's Dieudonne Wilfred Seyi Ntsengue.

Next up for Azerbaijan was highly-experienced heavyweight Teymur Mammadov - gold medallist at the inaugural European Games in Baku two years ago, Olympic bronze medallist at London 2012, and quarter-finalist at Rio 2016, not to mention his country's flag bearer in Brazil.

He quickly took the measure of Alaa Eldin Ghoussoun in their heavyweight (91kg) semi-final, sending the Syrian crashing to the mat in the first round with a meaty right hook.

To his credit, Ghoussoun resisted, and while there was only ever going to be one winner, he at least prevented Mammadov from reaching the final by unanimous decision.

The Azeri eventually triumphed on a split decision, and will come up against Turkey's Burak Aksin in the heavyweight showpiece.

There are 10 more semi-final bouts to come in Wednesday's evening session, before the finals are staged on Thurday.

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