AIBA World Boxing Championships: Sky Sports Scholars set to follow greats

By Sam Drury - Follow on Twitter.   Last Updated: 15/10/13 8:56am

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Sidelined: Head-guards will not be used at this month's World Championships

Sidelined: Head-guards will not be used at this month's World Championships

Friday sees the start of the AIBA World Boxing Championships as fighters from all over the globe descend on the city of Almaty in Kazakhstan, each dreaming of walking away with a gold medal.

The action itself doesn't get under way until Monday but the tournament officially begins on Friday with the arrival and registration of the various nations and their boxers. Amongst them will be representatives from both Great Britain and Ireland with each team naming a Sky Sports Scholar in their number.

Jack Bateson will compete for Great Britain in the light-flyweight division with middleweight Jason Quigley boxing for Ireland. The pair are ranked in the top 10 at their respective weights by the AIBA and will both be aiming to add their names to the list of greats to have won gold since the championships' inception in 1974.

Cuba, where the first World Championships were held, have amassed the most medals overall with 116 in that time, as well as claiming the highest number of golds with Russia, their nearest challengers on a total of 55, still some way off - even if you include the further 44 won as the Soviet Union.

With such an illustrious history in the competition it is perhaps unsurprising that Cuba also boast some of the most successful individuals in the tournament's past.

Felix Savón won the heavyweight gold six consecutive times between 1986 and 1997. The fact he had to settle for silver in 1999 was seen as both a shock and a disappointment after over a decade of such dominance in the division.

However, it was arguably another Cuban who was viewed as the greatest boxer to have graced the World Championships. Teófilo Stevenson may 'only' have claimed three golds at the championships - the heavyweight title in 1974 and 1978 before a superheavyweight win in 1986 - but there was no doubting his talent.

Right up until his death, aged 60, in June 2012, the debate continued among boxing fans as to whether Stevenson could have defeated the legendary Muhammad Ali if he had turned professional.

Teofilo Stevenson (L): Was a World Championships great but never turned pro

The option was certainly there in the mid-70's when Ali was at his peak, and the Cuban was fast approaching his. However, Stevenson turned down a reported $5 million purse to fight the Greatest shortly after winning his second Olympic gold in 1976, knowing that turning pro would have meant having to defect from his homeland.

We'll never know for sure whether Stevenson could have defeated Ali but there is no doubt whatsoever that there have been few, if any, better to have competed at the Worlds.

Even in more recent years there have been some big names to have competed, although not necessarily win, in the AIBA event. Vitali Klitschko reached the superheavyweight final in 1995 only to be beaten by the Russian Aleksey Lezin and before that Kostya Tszyu was the 1991 light-welterweight champion having earned bronze in the 1989 lightweight category.

2001 saw England represented by both David Haye and Carl Froch in Belfast, although neither could take home the biggest prize. Haye won silver in the heavyweight division and a 23-year-old Froch returned to Nottingham with bronze.

Meanwhile, current WBA and IBO Middleweight champion, Gennady Golovkin was just as feared in the amateur ranks and emerged victorious at the same weight in 2003.

Frankie Gavin became Britain's first World Championship gold medallist in 2007 and remains the only one to date, although both Luke Campbell and Anthony Joshua took silver in the 56kg and +91kg divisions, respectively, two years ago in Baku.

Gennady Golovkin: Was the 2003 middleweight champion before turning pro and dominating the same division

Whilst Bateson will be looking to emulate the likes of Joshua, Haye and in particular Gavin, Quigley knows he can make history should he make the final.

To date, no Irishman has progressed beyond the semi-final, meaning bronze is the best an Irish competitor has ever achieved in the men's event. Both Quigley and the rest of the Ireland team will be hoping to improve the country's record of seven bronze medals in 16 previous World Championships.

Ireland have had significantly more success in the women's event since it was established in 2001, winning four gold medals in six tournaments. On the other hand, England have managed just the one gold.

That was won last year in China by another Sky Sports Scholar, Savannah Marshall, who saw off the competition to win the middleweight crown.

Marshall will have her chance to defend her title next year in Canada but for Bateson and Quigley, the waiting is over.

Monday sees the start of the preliminaries and, they will hope, the road to being crowned world champion. The fact the championship is a straight knock-out makes it an unforgiving format, especially when you consider that the bouts consist of just three, three minute rounds.

This means that not only a bad fight will be costly; just one poor round could be enough to see even the most accomplished fighter crash out. The time to regroup and mount a steady recovery simply isn't there.

There is the additional factor that this is the first AIBA competition in which head-guards will not be used. For boxers that have been used to the added protection of the headgear for a number of years, the adjustment may be tricky and those who adapt quickest are likely to gain an advantage, even if only a psychological one.

These are the challenges that face the athletes in Almaty this month. However, after their significant achievements in the past months and years, both Jack Bateson and Jason Quigley will be backing themselves to overcome any and all obstacles put in their way once the championships begin.

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