Gold medalist Gaibnazarov wins pro debut


CARSON, Calif. — Olympic gold medalist Fazliddin Gaibnazarov bounced back from a first-round knockdown to win his professional debut in a second-round stoppage Saturday.

Gaibnazarov finished Puerto Rico’s Victor Vazquez 1:28 into the second round at StubHub Center in the famed outdoor ring south of downtown Los Angeles.

Gaibnazarov won gold for Uzbekistan as a light welterweight at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. He subsequently moved to Southern California and turned pro, signing with promoter Top Rank and training in the same gym where Ukrainian Olympic gold medalists Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk are based.

But Gaibnazarov hit the canvas roughly 20 seconds into his debut when Vazquez stunned him. Gaibnazarov says it was the first time he has been knocked to the ground in the two-time Olympian’s entire boxing career.

“I was a little bit hurried in the first round because it was my debut,” Gaibnazarov said through a translator. “I was maybe nervous and didn’t feel comfortable. After I came to the corner, my trainers told me what to do and I followed their instructions, and you see how it came out.”

He recovered smartly in the final minute of the first round, and Gaibnazarov ended the fight with a brutal left hand that crumpled Vazquez, who got back up but was deemed unfit to continue.

“I need more fights,” Gaibnazarov said with a smile.

Gaibnazarov elected to turn pro in the West after playing a key role for Uzbekistan’s impressive Olympic boxing team eight months ago, capping his run to gold with an upset victory over Azerbaijan’s Lorenzo Sotomayor in the final.

Uzbekistan won three gold medals and seven total medals in the Rio tournament, with light flyweight Hasanboy Dusmatov and flyweight Shakhobidin Zoirov joining Gaibnazarov with gold-medal victories.

Uzbekistan’s three boxing gold medals in Rio are one-third of the entire gold-medal count in the nation’s Olympic history in all sports combined.


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