by Tofiq Babanli
Boxing came to Azerbaijan early last century, with the influx of workers, engineers and experts from Russia and Europe to work in the oil industry. By 1924, the union of boxers was founding the first boxing federation and meetings of amateur boxers were underway in Baku.
Azerbaijani boxers first entered the Transcaucasian Championship in 1926, with Vladimir Tolstoy emerging as a champion. Tolstoy worked later as a coach in the boxing section of the Central House of Physical Education (now the Magomayev Philharmonia), producing a number of fighters who would go on to represent their country, including Abbas Agalarov. The first exposure to foreign competition was at a meeting of Azerbaijan and Turkey teams organized in Baku. The more experienced Turkish team won; however, Agalarov and teammates V.Yazmetdinov and Shepelev distinguished themselves. The closest and most interesting bout was that between Abbas Agalarov and Turkey’s Hajibay, which ended in a draw. In 1931, the second meeting saw Azerbaijan’s boxers triumph over the Turkish team. In 1933, boxers from workers clubs in England, Denmark and Sweden came to Baku for an international competition. The home team did very well and gained overall victory. Through the 1930s, our boxers fought with success in international competitions in Finland, France and other countries.
A number of great coaches, including Tolstoy contributed much to the development of the boxing school in those years. Their students were successful at the USSR championships and in All-Union and international competitions.
In 1955, our talented young boxer Boris Golubenko fought for the USSR national team in several international boxing competitions. He was winner at international meetings in England, Finland and Scotland, and won a silver medal at the Universal Festival conducted in Poland, losing in the final to the famous Zbigniew Petshikovski.
In 1956, two Azerbaijani boxers, Ogtay Huseynov and Benjamin Gasso, won gold medals at the USSR Championships. In 1958, after a long interval, the Azerbaijani national team held a new international meeting in Baku. This time, the visitors were the national team of Iran; our team won 6:4.
In 1960, the Azerbaijan team twice met teams from Finland and won both times – 9:1 and 7:3 in Baku. The captain of the visiting team was European champion Olli Myaki. A West German team also came to Baku in that year; they were beaten 7:3.
In 1965, our young boxers Balahasan Eynullayev and brothers Mammad and Nadir Babayev showed their abilities at the international competitions in Finland, Hungary, France, and Norway as part of the USSR National Students team, Eynullayev winning for the team in Finland. In 1966, at the international youth European Cup, Kamal Babayev boxed for the USSR national team, he gained a series of victories and finally won a gold medal.
West or east, Ogtay strikes gold
In 1985, the 3rd International boxing tournament was held in Managua, Nicaragua. The national teams of North and South America were joined for the first time by the Soviet Union. Ogtay Ibrahimov was a member of the Soviet team and won all his bouts. He came away with a gold medal and the champion’s belt.
The 18 year old Ibrahimov was in action again that year, in the international Friendship tournament in Ulan Bator, Mongolia. This time he took a gold medal and a special prize as the tournaments’ strongest boxer with the best technique. He was to reap gold in Nicaragua again the following year.
In the 1987 Dynamiada in Poland, Ogtay Ibrahimov once more ended the competition on top of the podium.
In October 1991, boxing was drastically reorganised, as were all sports after the country won independence and the following year the Azerbaijan Boxing Federation became a full member of the AIBA and EABA.
Our super heavyweight boxer Adalat Mammadov brought the first European gold medal to the independent country from the European Youth Championship in Edinburgh, Scotland. In 1992, he won bronze at the World Championship held in Canada.
Rovshan steps up
In 1993, Rovshan Huseynov had to struggle to enter the European Championship held in Bursa, Turkey. He was not yet 18 and participants were usually at least 19 years old. He was finally allowed to enter and came away as adult champion of Europe. One month after the European Championship, Rovshan Huseynov also boxed to success in the European Youth Championship held in Greece, once more earning gold. In 1994, Huseynov went further. At the World Cup competition in Thailand, he was awarded a gold medal and a gold belt.
In 1995, at the first European Cadets Championship organized at Elazig, Turkey, the members of the team representing our country Rashad Suleymanov had gained silver, Sahib Bagirov and Rufat Aslanov – bronze medals.
Azerbaijan’s first boxing foray into the Olympic Games was in 1996, Atlanta USA. Adalat Mammadov (+91 kg) and Ilham Karimov (81 kg) were the representatives and Mammadov made it to the semi-finals only to lose to a disputed decision and finish fifth.
However, Azerbaijani Malik Ağayev (75 kg) fighting for Turkey won his countries’ first Olympic silver medal.
In 1999, for the first time in the history of Azerbaijan boxing, the European Cadets Championship was held in Baku. The home team won 4 gold medals (E.Tagiyev, A.Dudayev, S.Gurbanov, R.Alimuradov), 1 silver medal (A.Abdullayev) and 4 bronze medals (E.Maharramov, K.Mahammadov, E.Hajiyev, A.Karimov).
Olympic and world firsts
In 2000, at the Sydney Olympic Games our young boxer Vugar Alakbarov defeated a series of strong, more experienced opponents, and won a bronze medal, Azerbaijan boxing’s first Olympic medal
2003 was another memorable year. At the World Championship in Thailand that year, Agasi Mammadov wrote his name into the annals of the country’s boxing history. He was the first Azerbaijani to be awarded the title of world champion.
Mammadov went on to win bronze, as did compatriot Fuad Aslanov, at the XXVIII Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
In 2006, the national teenage boxing team won 1gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze medals at the European Championship and 1 silver and 2 bronze medals at the World Championship. The following year they brought back 2 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze medals from the World Championship.
In 2008, team captain Shahin Imranov (57 kg) won a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games.
In 2009, the European Youth Championship in Poland, was also successful for our sportsmen: E.Mamishzadeh ended the competition in first place, E.Esayev and E.Ahmadov were second, E.Zeynalov, E.Aliyev, H.Hajialiyev and M.Ahamaliyev came third. Azerbaijan came second in the team event.
In 2010, at the World Youth Championship organized in Baku, our sportsmen did brilliantly well. Salman Alizadeh and Shaban Shahpalangov won gold medals and Elvin Isayev a bronze medal, withthe right to participate in the first Junior Olympic games in Singapore. Alizadeh and Isayev returned from that event with silver medals.
Elvin Mamishzadeh, one of the team leaders at the European Championship and European Cup, won 2 silver medals in the 49 kg. weight class. All the official competitions conducted in 2011, on the eve of the Olympic Games were very important for our national team. Our sportsmen prepared to these competitions with a great responsibility and have achieved the targets set. At the European Championship Salman Alizadeh (49 kg.) and Teymur Mammadov (91 kg.) won gold medals, Heybatullah Hajialiyev (64 kg.) took bronze.
Next stop – London 2012
The organization of the World Amateur Boxing Championship in Baku in September and October 2011, was a great event for Azerbaijan. Mahammadrasul Majidov (+91 kg.) won gold and Teymur Mammadov a silver medal. Azerbaijan was third in the team event after Ukraine and Cuba.
The awards ceremony. President Ilham Aliyev of the Azerbaijan Republic and Ching-Kuo Wu, President of AIBA with the winners
Majidov, Mammadov, Elvin Mamishzadeh and Heybatullah Hajialiyev qualified for the London 2012 Olympic Games. One other boxer – Soltan Migitinov (75 kg) has also qualified - from the team competition of WSB professional world boxing clubs.
The European Youth Championship was also successful, with a return of 2 golds (Parviz Bagirov, Rauf Rahimov), 1 silver (Heybatullah Hajialiyev) and 1 bronze medal (Joshgun Aliyev) to achieve second place for the team.
At the European Championship for girls, Leyla Javadova (75 kg) won two silver medals.
The successes gained by our sportsmen in recent years gives us hope that our representatives will continue the traditions of Azerbaijani boxing and uphold the sporting honour of our country at the London Olympic Games.
About the author: Tofiq Babanli is an Honoured Coach, Honoured Master of Sport of Azerbaijan, International grade referee (AIBA) and associate professor.