Brilliant bantamweights audacious in Argentina

The picturesque city of San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina played host to the pre-ranking fights involving the Bantamweight (56kg) class of AIBA Pro Boxing (APB).

France’s Khedafi Djelkhir is well deserving of his number one APB seeding, having come into his debut with the silver medal at the 2008 Olympic Games, and an impeccable 16-0 professional record, which includes 12 stoppage victories.

In his first APB outing, he took on Venezuela’s 23-year-old Yonni Blanco, who won a bronze medal at the 2013 South American Games.

Blanco was the crowd favourite due to his South American heritage, but it was the Frenchman who was the true star of the fight, dazzling the watching onlookers from beginning to end.

Djelkhir’s professional background shone through in the fight, as he maintained a vigorous tempo that was simply too much for the courageous Blanco who never wilted in effort despite the disparity in quality.

All three judges gave the fight to Djelkhir, who has laid a marker down on the rest of the competition.

After the fight, he spoke to the media regarding his win.

 

I would say that I managed to win this fight quite easily, and it is due to the great work of my coaches and my team. APB is a great competition as it represents evolution for boxers. Finally, I am really happy that now pro boxers can also be eligible for Olympic Games, as is the case with other Olympic disciplines, and it a great chance for me

Russia’s Sergey Vodopiyanov won the gold medal at the 2007 AIBA World Championships aged just 20, and earned a silver medal at the 2009 edition of the tournament.
A two-time Olympian, Vodopiyanov was the favourite in his contest against China’s Jiawei Zhang, a two-time Asian Games silver medalist, from 2010 and most recently in Incheon 2014.

In what was arguably the most entertaining bout of the evening, Zhang exhibited round after round of aggressive boxing, and surprised his decorated opponent from the get go.
Zhang’s hunger for victory was immense, and though Vodopiyanov rallied towards the end of the fight, it was the Chinese star who proved victorious, earning warm applause from the knowledgeable Bariloche crowd.

In one of the biggest surprises of APB so far, Number two seeded Bantamweight Javid Chalabiyev, the reigning AIBA World Champion, lost his first match in the competition to Brazil’s two-time Olympian Robenilson Vieira de Jesus, a late replacement going into the contest.

Chalabiyev entered the contest as a big favourite, but the elusive style of the Brazilian proved to be a real surprise, and de Jesus managed to use his trickiness to counter the aggressiveness of the Azeri athlete.

As the fight wore on, Chalabiyev worked ever harder to claw back some points, but the more he tried the less he could work out, as the Brazilian counter-attacked magnificently all the way to a surprise victory.

The last fight of the evening saw home favourite Alberto Melian treated to a rapturous welcome when he stepped into the ring, and the London 2012 Olympian squared off against Kenya’s Benson Gicharu Njangiru, who was coming off a bronze medal in the recent Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Although he was facing an Argentine in Argentina, Njangiru was treated with respect from the crowd, but for the first few rounds of the fight he was outboxed by the local favourite, whose rapid combinations often seemed like a blur such was the speed of them.

Everything could have changed in round five however, as the Kenyan hit Melian with a shot which would have felled many boxers, but the Argentine showed tremendous resilience in staying on his feet, and buoyed by the adoring crowd, he maintained his composure and picked up the win on each judge’s scorecard to round off a flawless night of boxing for himself, APB, and Argentina.

Melian spoke to the media after his win.

“I am really happy about my victory and I would like to thank everybody who came to support me tonight. APB is a real pro competition, and all the opponents are really strong, however I realize that my previous experience, including WSB helped me a lot in this victory.”

This match wrapped up week one of APB’s pre-ranking stage.

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