All 80 Beijing Olympics berths available have been determined with the completion of the quarterfinals at the World Boxing Championships in Chicago. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer is covering the tournament in the Midwest U.S. state of Illinois and has details.
Boxers fight in 11 divisions, from light flyweight at 48 kilograms to super heavyweight, above 91 kilos. All of the boxers in the first 9 weight classes who reached the quarterfinals here earned berths at next year's Olympics. Boxers in the heavyweight and super heavyweight classes had to reach the semifinals.
In Thursday's quarterfinals, Russia had the most representatives with 9 fighters in the 11 classes, followed by China with 7 and the United States with 6. In all, 36 countries of the 107 that began these World Championships last week have had boxers earn Olympic berths.
The heavyweight semifinalists who booked their trips to Beijing late Thursday with victories are: Russian Rakhim Chakhkeiv, who beat Eichin Alizade of Azerbaijan, 17-6; Frenchman John M'Bumba, who beat Moldova's Mihail Munteam, 22-13; Italian Clemente Russo, who beat Montenegro's Milorad Gajovic, 15-3; and China's Yushan Najiati, who beat Hungarian Jozsef Daniel Darmos, 28-11.
The final four from the super heavyweight category are Ukrainian Vyacheslav Glazkov, who beat Lithuanian Jaroslav Jaksto when the referee stopped the contest in the second round; China's Zhang Zhilei, with a second round knockout of Australian Daniel Beahan; Italian Roberto Cammarelle in a walkover over England's David Price; and Russian Islam Timurziev, who earned an Olympic berth over American Michael Hunter by scoring a 22-15 victory.
Hunter gave the Russian credit for a good fight. "He was very strong, you know. Some of the punches, you know, he was moving my body," said Hunter. "I mean he wasn't really hurting me, but he was knocking me off balance, so that's how I knew he was very strong. I couldn't really step to him and get my balance. You know it's stuff I just have to work on."
Earlier Thursday, American flyweight (51 kg) boxer Raushee Warren won his quarterfinal over Russian Georgy Balakshin, 23-13. Warren led 10-7 after two rounds but had a dominating third round in which he outpointed the Russian, 11-3.
Warren said he followed his coach's instructions. "My corner was just telling me, like, keep pressing him, keep landing punches," said Warren. "So the third round they just told me, just make him chase you for the fourth round. Don't go out there just trying to knock him out. Just gain points and let him chase you. And you could see it in the fourth round; I was just moving."
Since he has already earned a 2008 Olympics berth, Raushee Warren says he has high hopes here for the world title. "I'm in the medal round. I've already qualified to go to Beijing. That was my main focus coming to Chicago," said Warren. "I've got another thing to worry about and that's getting the gold medal and representing the United States and myself."
Of the four other Americans who fought for semifinal berths, only one advanced. Welterweight (69 kg) Demetrius Andrade scored a convincing 30-9 win over German Jack Culcay-Keth. "I expected that to happen. My game plan was to wear him down the first two rounds with body shots, and the third and fourth just sit there and box, and that's what I did and it came out well," said Andrade.
Nearly all of the boxers who did not qualify for the 2008 Bejing Olympics at these World Championships will still have two more opportunities at regional meets next year to earn berths.