A quality quintet of boxers will be lining-up for Azerbaijan Baku Fires when Russia come to town this Saturday 26 January (19:00 local time) to do battle at the Olympic Sports Center ‘Serhedchi’. This Group A match, postponed from week three, will see two Georgians and the team’s two star attractions, World Series of Boxing (WSB) Individual Champion Gairbek Germakhanov and AIBA World Champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov, all take to the canvas for the hosts.
In the opening contest of the night, accomplished Bantamweight (50-54kg) Germakhanov will be pitted against Russian 20-year-old Mukhammad Shekhov. The experienced orthodox Azeri, last season’s top ranked boxer at this weight, goes into the contest as the overwhelming favourite with his 9-1 record in the competition. The skills and technique of the fleet-footed 25-year-old should be too much for Shekhov in this one.
23-year-old Hurshid Tojibaev, who made the switch to Azerbaijan from Mexico this summer, will then be making his first appearance for his new team when he faces untested Russian Viktor Batalovat at Lightweight (57-61kg). The compact orthodox Uzbek was impressive last season and will be looking to get his career with his new employers off to a winning start against an opponent yet to taste life in WSB.
In the Middleweight (68-73kg) bout, another of Azerbaijan’s Georgians, tough man Jaba Khositashvili, will be taking to the ring to lock horns with Russian WSB debutant, 23-year-old Gamzat Gazaliev. The orthodox Khositashvili boasts a 5-1 record in the competition and will be hell-bent on extending his winning streak in the third contest of the night.
After a commanding performance in his first outing for the Russian team, Aleksander Khotyantsev will once again be showcasing his skills when the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) battles the hosts’ third Georgian, Iago Kiziria. The Fires’ 21-year-old has a reputation as a heavy-hitter, so sparks should fly in this one with Khotyantsev also known for liking to end his contests early.
Azeri superpower Medzhidov will then make his second WSB appearance this season when he is pitted against battle-hardened Russian Vitaly Kudukhov in the last fight of the evening. This one promises to be explosive right from the onset with the two boxers being real crowd pleasers. London 2012 Olympic Games bronze medallist Medzhidov will have to be on his guard against the powerful 23-year-old Kudukhov, who likes to draw his opponents in for a good scrap and has a tendency towards the spectacular.
The Russian told WSB, “I feel in great shape and fighting a World Champion is a fantastic opportunity for me to test myself against the best there is. I have trained extremely hard and pushed myself to my limits to be ready to face Medzhidov. I fought him four years ago and beat him so I know him well. To win again I must apply constant pressure”.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires are flying high in their group, topping the table with five wins from five, and with home advantage, they are favourites to claim victory. Russia on the other hand always put on a show and with their excellent coaching set-up, will provide stubborn resistance.