Kazakhstan has an extraordinary Olympic record at welterweight. The medal won by Daniyar Yeleussinov was the fourth consecutive gold won at the weight by the nation following the previous victories of Bakhtiyar Artayev, Bakhyt Sarsekbayev and Serik Sapiyev.
Yeleussinov, 25, is the latest in a long line of Kazakh champions. But don’t expect a replica of his Kazakh countryman Gennady Golovkin. Yeleussinov is more dancer than destroyer.
His success is founded on his speed, footwork and head movement. His best punch is his laser-accurate straight left hand from his southpaw stance.
“That’s my style and technique. See the punches and try to avoid them.
It was Yeleussinov’s second Olympics experience. In 2012, he dropped a close decision in London to Vincenzo Mangiacapre of Italy. He avenged that defeat the next year at the World Championships in his home country on his way to the title.
Yeleussinov’s trophy cabinet also includes two gold medals from the Asian Games and two AIBA Elite Men’s Boxer of the Year titles. His achievements in the ring have made Yeleussinov a big star in Kazakhstan.
While he possesses exquisite skill, Yeleussinov is not invincible. Stronger men with heavier hands have got the better over him through smart and sustained pressure, as Mohammed Rabii of Morocco showed in his victory over Yeleussinov in the final of the 2015 World Championships.
But dictating the terms of a fight with the Kazkh is easier said than done, as Joshua Kelly found out in firstYeleussinov proved in his opening bout at Rio against Joshua Kelly found out in first. Yeleussinov picked apart the talented Brit with sharp counters and befuddled him with his movement.
In the Rio final, he waltzed to victory against Shakram Giyasov of Uzbekistan. Giyasov had defeated top-seed Rabii of Morocco in his previous bout, but was no match for Yeleussinov.
Kazakhs reportedly earn a cool $250,000 for winning welterweight (69 kg / 152 lb) gold, so it would be of little surprise if he stayed amateur for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
But Yeleussinov is learning English, and considering moving stateside to join his brother Dauren in the professional ranks.
In the gold medal bout, For the first two rounds, the Kazakh spent the first two rounds drawing the marauding Giyasov onto counters from the outside, spinning out of danger on his lightening feet.
“That’s my style and technique,” he told Reuters. “See the punches and try to avoid them.”
In the third round, he proved he has the grit to match his grace. Yeleussinov stood in front of the bull-like Giyasov and exchanged punches in the pocket, proving he could bang as well as box against an elite opponent.
His bravery didn’t go unpunished. Giyasov reopened a lengthy cut from his previous bout that ran down his forehead and under his eye.