Spotlight: Rafael Aghayev – The Panther of the East

Described as “The Saviour of WKF Karate Kumite”, Rafael Aghayev is a multiple European and World champion in kumite in several weight categories,  and one of the most successful tournament competitors of his generation. Antonio Espinosa, WKF president, has described him as “A brilliant of the world karate”.

Rafael Aghayev  was born on 4th of March 1985, in Sumqayit, Azerbaijan. The youngest of three brothers (both talented sportsmen), he started training at the age of 7 based on the encouragement of his father, a professional footballer.

Rafael Mammadov was Aghayev’s first Karate coach, and under his tutelage he participated in his first national competition. He was eventually invited to join one of the leading clubs in Azerbaijan, under the direction of Fizuli Musayev.

In 1997 Aghayev made his tournament debut for the National team at Junior level at the Open World Cup in Miskolc, Hungary. Although he won no medal, he gained valuable international tournament experience. A year later he won his first international tournament medal at the Open Championship of England.

At the 2003 Junior Junior Championship held in Marseilles, France he placed third in 18-20 years 65kg category for male kumite. The following year he won his first senior medal at the 2004 European Championships held in Moscow, Russia.

Rafael Aghayev credits Karate with providing him with a path which has allowed him to develop his body and spirit. Karate has provided an opportunity to learn new skills and push the limits of his ability.

Currently a four time World Champion, Aghayev’s ambition is to win a fifth World title and to also help his native Azerbaijan win team honors.. He is still young enough to make these things happen.

For an exclusive interview conducted by Karate News, click on the following link.

Aghayev’s major honors currently include:

  • World Junior and Cadet, Third place – Kumite (2003 – 65Kg)
  • European Junior and Cadet Kumite Champion (2005 – 65Kg)
  • European Kumite Champion (2004 – 65Kg, 2007  – 70Kg, 2009 – 75Kg, 2010 – 75Kg, 2013 – 75Kg, 2015 -75Kg)
  • European Kumite Second place (2008  – 70Kg)
  • European Kumite Third place (2011 – 75Kg, 2012 – 75Kg)
  • European Open Kumite Champion (2005, 2007, 2008)
  • University World Kumite Champion (2006 – 70Kg)
  • World Kumite Champion (2006 – 70Kg, 2008 – 70Kg, 2010 – 75Kg)
  • World Kumite Second place (2012 – 75Kg)
  • World  Open Kumite Champion (2008)
  • Paris Open Kumite Champion (2008 – 70Kg)
  • Karate 1 Premier League Champion – Kumite (Paris 2012, Tyumen 2013)
  • World Games Champion – Kumite (2013 – 75Kg)

Have a look at the following videos to see the Panther of the East in action.

2006 University World Kumite Final – 70Kg

2013 World Combat Games Final

2013 World Games Final – 75Kg


Author: Patrick Donkor

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