THE AIBA’s men’s World championships began at the Stark Arena in Belgrade this week. With new weight classes and no seeding, high-level contests worthy of the medal stages were drawn from the start.

At 51kgs GB’s Kiaran MacDonald in his first World championships bout went straight in with Yuberjen Martinez. The Colombian is a two-time Olympian who won the silver medal at Rio 2016. MacDonald, a skilled southpaw, moved off from Martinez to pick out punches. But the Colombian is experienced and strong. He kept on coming, bringing up the pressure and attacking the body. MacDonald still landed some fine punches but Martinez had swung the momentum in the contest his way. He finished well in the third to take a unanimous decision win.

Also at 51kgs Scotland’s Lennox Mulligan lost a split decision to Puerto Rico’s Yankiel Rivera Figueroa and Hungary’s Attila Bernath beat Irish flyweight Sean Mari on a split decision.

GB featherweight Niall Farrell went in at a high level. Samuel Kistohurry, a Tokyo Olympian, is powerful, with a high punch output. He’s accurate too. He clipped Farrell with headshots, pressing forward with intensity. Farrell still showed grit, fighting back in the third round and showing in spurts what he’s capable of. The decision was split but deservedly Kistohurry’s. Also at 57kgs Ireland’s Adam Hession met Russia’s Eduard Savvin, losing a split decision.

Middleweight Lewis Richardson met the host nation’s Almir Memic in his first bout. Memic was aggressive but Richardson, a sharp southpaw, fired in good punches off the back foot, boxing well in the first and third rounds. But it was Memic’s efforts that caught the judges’ eye and he took a split decision. Scotland’s 75kgs Sam Hickey began his World championships campaign with a victory, outpointing Bulgaria’s Rami Kiwan on a split decision.

England’s Harvey Lambert, a new comer in international boxing, was drawn against Russia’s Evgenii Kool in his first bout. He dashed out quick jabs, moving in slick style. The Russian marched after him and did catch up to Lambert with heavy shots, edging him out on a split decision. In the same weight class America’s Omari Jones unanimously outscored Scotland’s Tyler Jolly.

Irish 67kgs Eugene McKeever met Uzbekistan’s Asadkhuja Muydinkhujaev. The Uzbek aimed backhand lefts to the body as McKeever looked to punch with him. Muydinkhujaev was sharper on his feet, moving in with a quick jab. McKeever caught him with a thudding right to the body but couldn’t stop a unanimous decision going to the Uzbek.

England’s Harris Akbar is a good operator himself but his campaign was cut short by Ukraine’s World Youth champion, Yurii Zakharieiev. Akbar, stepping up to the new 71kgs division, had height and reach on Zakharieiev and began jabbing quickly, setting up fast punches. But the Ukrainian  started to break through with heavy hooks that found their way to Harris’ chin. Zakharieiev imposed himself physically and handed Akbar a standing count in the second round. Harris showed the quality in his work in the third but couldn’t deny the Ukrainian a unanimous decision win.

Stephen Newns represented Scotland at 71kgs, defeating Brazil’s Luis Fernando Da Silva on a split decision before being eliminated after his second bout, Azerbaijan’s Sarkan Aliyev prevailing on a unanimous points verdict.

GB 80kgs George Crotty was in a commanding position once Kyrgyzstan’s Omurbek Bekzhigit had a point deducted in their second round. But Bekzhigit carried on bombing forward, sweeping Crotty off his feet with a right hook and seizing a split decision win. Irish light-heavyweight Keylan Cassidy progressed with a unanimous points victory over Mexico’s Said Olvera Arriaga.

At 54kgs Scotland’s Matthew McHale was outstanding in his opening bout, unanimously outpointing Russia’s Kurban Bairanbekov. That put him into a second preliminary bout with another boxing powerhouse, Kazakhstan. McHale did little wrong in his first round with Makhmud Sabyrkhan but fell behind on the cards. The Kazakh came on strong in the second, dropping his hands but firing in hard punches. The fiery Scot didn’t back off, responding with some well placed punches of his own but Sabyrkhan made sure of a split points win.

GB super-heavyweight Delicious Orie impressed in his first bout at the Worlds. He plied stocky Luis Gomez Meneses with jabs, breaking his defences apart and leaving the Mexico swinging wildly, often out of range. He showed admirable finishing instinct, bringing in fast right crosses, piling up combinations to stop Gomez in the third round. In his second bout Orie got drawn away from his jabbing and drawn in with Lazizbek Mullojonov, a good calibre Uzbek southpaw who thumped his backhand left through. It was a close bout, with Orie have strong spells when he found his range. But Mullojonov took a unanimous decision victory.

Lewis Williams too showed the power of a tall man working well behind a good jab. He bossed Azerbaijan’s Rauf Rahimov, firing in hurtful combinations to win unanimously. In his next bout too he dictated the action against Albania’s Indrit Laci, taking another clear unanimous decision. Ukraine’s Robert Marton made it scrappy for him but didn’t derail Williams, conceding a split decision.

Conner Tudsbury, another exciting new-comer on the GB set up, is a light-heavyweight but moved up to 86kgs, cruiserweight, to enter this competition. He looked comfortable though as he defeated Israel’s Yan Zak on a unanimous decision. He then took on Tokyo Olympian Rogelio Romero, delivering victory with a superb performance. He picked off the Mexican with hard counters and raised his punch output when Romero stepped to him, making sure of a clear unanimous decision.

Ireland’s Ricky Nesbitt lost to Uzbekistan’s Nodirjon Mirzakhmedov at 48kgs, suffering a unanimous points reverse. John Hale, boxing at 60kgs for Ireland, and Brandon McCarthy were also eliminated early on. Hale lost to host nation boxer Semiz Alicic on a unanimous decision, while at 63.5kgs Italy’s Gianluigi Malanga beat McCarthy, also unanimously.

Even two great Cubans lost their opening bouts. Only in August Roniel Iglesias was winning Olympic gold in brilliant style. Before he could even get going here at 71kgs Jordan’s Zeyad Eashash barrelled into him head first, swinging wildly. A cut meant Iglesias couldn’t continue and the bout was scored on the one minute and five seconds that had elapsed, with Eashash progressing. At 60kgs Japan’s Hayato Tsutsumi impressively eliminated Lazaro Alvarez, a three-time former World gold medallist.