Still looking to record their first win in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) competition this season, USA Knockouts will look to make home advantage count at the Yost Theater this Thursday 31 January (20:00 local time) when Astana Arlans Kazakhstan come to town. The hosts will be relying on experienced Mexican Bantamweight (50-54kg) Braulio Avila Juarez, William Williams and tough Hungarian Istvan Bernath to lead the charges.
It should be a tight affair between the Knockouts’ Avila Juarez and Kazakhstan’s Khabibula Ismail-Akhunov in the night’s opening contest. The 26-year-old Mexican orthodox boxer should have the edge with three seasons in the competition and a 7-5 record to his name. Ismail-Akhunov struggled in the last campaign against speedy opponents but has come on leaps and bounds over the past year as a result of the quality coaching set-up that the Arlans now have.
In the Lightweight (57-61kg) showdown, USA’s Juaquin Chavez will be pitted against impressive 25-year-old Kazak southpaw Samat Bashenov. The American was impressive in the pro ranks, however the pedigree of the fighters in WSB always make it a difficult introduction to newcomers. Bashenov on the other hand has been class in his two previous outings, his defeat of AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Anvar Yunusov when he showcased his full repertoire of shots was the pick of those victories.
After a nasty cut saw him hand the win to his opponent last time out, 22-year-old William Williams from the USA will be doing all he can to overcome the challenge of Israeli hard man Konstantin Snigur in the Middleweight (67-73kg) bout. Williams will have to box clever and keep his guard up at all time if he aims to take anything away against an opponent who has proven time again that he can mix it up with the very best.
Williams told WSB, “The coaches have devised a solid game plan and preparations have been excellent so I feel very well prepared. We have worked hard on conditioning and I have done a lot of sparring. I was disappointed with being cut the last time around but I now I am really excited to be able to showcase my talent”.
WSB debutant and local Los Angeles boxer Jamel Reynolds will then be going head-to-head with the Arlans’ classy Iranian Ehsan Rouzbahani at Light Heavyweight (80-85kg). The American is an unknown quantity at this level so will be relying on the element of surprise against an opponent that reached the quarter-final stages of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Rouzbahani, a 24-year-old southpaw, will be high on confidence following a solid win in his last outing.
The night will be brought to a close with the Heavyweight (91+kg) contest between the Knockouts’ Bernath and 2009 AIBA World Championships bronze medallist Roman Kapitonenko. The 32-year-old Arlans Ukrainian comes with quite some pedigree, having also scooped bronze at the European Championships in 2010, and although he will be making his first foray in WSB, he will go in as favourite against Bernath, who has already suffered two defeats this season.
Kazakhstan are flying high in WSB season with six wins from six and with such a powerful unit travelling to the USA, many expect them to extend that unbeaten streak even further. Anything less than a victory for the Knockouts will do, with quarter-final qualification impossible if they do not.