Chechen boxer Imam Khataev has underscored his reputation as one of the finest prospects in the sport after he showcased his power with a KO of Spain’s Jalidov Gafurova to qualify for the Olympic light-heavyweight semi-final.
Gafurova had no riposte to Khataev’s bruising, concussive power throughout the bout, eventually succumbing to a short right hook which sent the Spaniard crumpling into the canvas and secured a semi-final appearance for the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) athlete, where he will take on the UK’s Ben Whittaker with a place in the gold medal match at stake.
Khataev came into Friday’s bout in Tokyo as a heavy favorite after a star-making series of performances in the light-heavyweight bracket. He stopped his opponent in the round of 32 before eliminating the pre-tournament favorite Bekzad Nurdauletov in the round of 16 – and after the early exchanges on Friday against Gafurova, it seemed (and was) only a matter of time before the Chechen slugger secured his place in the semis.
Imam Khataev is a BEAST!He will be fighting Ben Whittaker (brit), this Sunday in the mens light heavyweight Semi-Finals of the Olympics.(These are highlights from his fight today which he won via KO)#Olympics2021pic.twitter.com/1cFFUeSxRc
— Borz (@H57142700) July 30, 2021
The first signs of Khataev’s impressive power came early in the fight when it appeared as though Gafurova’s nose was broken in one of the first exchanges of the fight. It went from bad to worse in the second when another barrage of blows led to the referee issuing Gafurova with a standing eight count.
Khataev’s crowd-pleasing style of fighting was apparent at all times throughout the fight, as he rarely missed an opportunity to stand in the pocket and trade blows – while also displaying, when it was called for at least, a decent repertoire of fighting on the back foot.
He will face the UK’s Whittaker’s in the semi-final, after the Briton squeezed past Brazil’s Keno Machado in his quarter-final in what will be a fight between two highly touted up and comers – with Khataev’s amateur ledger standing at 69-16 compared to Whittaker’s 50-10.
The gold medalist in the light heavyweight tournament, whoever that might be, will be afforded a significant springboard into the professional ranks -with previous winners of Olympic gold including the likes of Andre Ward and even Leon Spinks.
And judging by the reaction online, many are predicting that Khataev follows in those impressive footsteps.
Unless we see something pretty special, that’s the KO of the tournament and probably the year in amateur boxing. Fantastic performance from Khataev, who’s so much better – and smarter – than the crude brawler I’ve seen some categorise him as.
— Taylor On Sport (@TaylorOnSport) July 30, 2021
The second KO win of the Olympics for Imam Khataev! This is guy is so much fun. I am following this journey to the pros.
— LukieBoxing (@LukieBoxing) July 30, 2021
“Unless we see something pretty special, that’s the KO of the tournament and probably the year in amateur boxing,” wrote one person online of Khataev’s shellacking of Gafurova.
“Fantastic performance from Khataev, who’s so much better – and smarter – than the crude brawler I’ve seen some categorize him as.”
“Imam is my favorite fighter in the Olympic Games,” added another.
“The second KO win of the Olympics for Imam Khataev! This is guy is so much fun. I am following this journey to the pros,” agreed a third.
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