With so much experience in their squad and home advantage this Saturday 2 February (19:00 local time), Azerbaijan Baku Fires go into their match at the Olympic Sports Center ‘Serhedchi’ versus Algeria Desert Hawks as overwhelming favourites. The visitors have brought some quality boxers, which should make it a fascinating World Series of Boxing (WSB) Group A encounter. With 2007 AIBA World Champion Albert Selimov, 2008 Youth World Champion Magomed Kurbanov and undefeated Moldovan Vladimir Cheles, Azerbaijan should still have too much for their opponents.
22-year-old Russian Bantamweight (50-54kg) Kurbanov, who boasts a 4-0 WSB record, will step into the ring to face the Hawks’ French southpaw Vincent Legrand in the night’s opening contest. It promises to be an explosive fight with these two boxers having real pedigree. It will be intriguing to see who comes out on top. The orthodox Kurbanov has the experience of two seasons in the competition whilst Legrand has only fought once; the Frenchman though has an impressive unbeaten 11-0 record in the pro ranks, which will make this fight compulsive viewing.
After having racked up three wins from three in his debut WSB season, two-time European Champion Selimov sits top of the Lightweight (57-61kg) Individual rankings and the 26-year-old orthodox Russian will seek to further cement that position with another victory when he battles London Olympian Mohamed Amine Ouadahi. The Algerian boxer will however be confident of an upset after winning his maiden WSB fight away from home in week four.
Experienced Belarusian southpaw Mahamed Nurudzinau will then be taking to the ring for Azerbaijan to face 26-year-old 2011 African Championships gold medallist Abdelmalek Rahou from Algeria. This should be a very tight affair between two intelligent operators. Nurudzinau has shown throughout his three seasons in WSB that he is one of the most tactically astute fighters in the competition, whereas the Algerian is desperate to make an impression for his team. Rahou has a good height and reach advantage in this one so predicting a winner in this Middleweight (68-73kg) bout will be hard.
After impressing on his WSB debut in week three with a well-taken victory in Mexico, Algeria’s 23-year-old French southpaw Matthieu Bauderlique will get another chance to showcase his talent when he locks horns with Cheles at Light Heavyweight (80-85kg). Being 4-0 in the pro ranks, the young Frenchman is an impressive prospect at this level. Cheles on the other hand will be intent on keeping his perfect record intact.
Bauderlique told WSB, “We have been working hard on our physical preparation with very specific training so we are feeling confident of an upset. My opponent is unbeaten in this competition and the Baku Fires boxers have a reputation for being no-nonsense, so it will be tough, but I believe that I have it in me to win. If we want to qualify for the quarter-finals, we have to defy the odds and beat Azerbaijan”.
The Heavyweights (+91kg) will bring the show to a close with 24-year-old Azeri Abdulkadir Abdullayev going head-to-head with WSB stalwart Chouaib Bouloudinats from Algeria. The orthodox Abdullayev has excelled in this competition, having only lost once, to 2012 WSB Champion Filip Hrgovic last season, so he will be confident of more success however Bouloudinats poses a real threat.
Azerbaijan will seek to make it seven wins from seven when Algeria come to town, which would guarantee them qualification for the knockout stages. The Hawks on the other hand find themselves at the foot of the table and need a victory to retain any hope of making it to the quarter-finals.