With the regular season done and dusted, World Series of Boxing (WSB) now comes into its own with the exciting knockout phases. There are four mouth-watering two-legged quarter-finals to look forward to with some of the most talented boxers in the competition set to go head-to-head. This is the business end of the season and each performance will come under greater scrutiny. Every team will know the importance that each victory has towards the aggregate score.
One of the first matches to grace the first of two quarter-final weekends will be the clash between the third place team in Group A, the experienced and savvy Mexico Guerreros and WSB newcomers British Lionhearts, which have looked like an extremely potent force on home turf.
With the Guerreros finishing a place above their counterparts, they have earned the right to have the return leg at home so the first meeting between the two will take place on Friday 22 March at the iconic York Hall, in the heart of London’s East End. This historic venue is widely considered the hub of boxing in Great Britain and should provide a stunning backdrop to this exciting match-up.
The atmosphere at the British Lionhearts’ last group match versus Ukraine Otamans at York Hall was absolutely epic with both sets of fans contributing to one of the stand-out meetings of this campaign. The visit of Mexico is will guarantee another night to remember at this remarkable venue.
The London-based team won four out of their five home matches during the regular season so are favourites to win. The Lionhearts will be going all-out to ensure they bring a healthy lead with them to Foro Polanco when they travel to the Mexican capital a week later.
The Lionhearts have identified their quintet of boxers that they think can do the difference and there is one major surprise to the roster, with Fred Evans making way for Aston Brown. The usual suspects complete the line-up with the Welsh shuffle king Andrew Selby, impressive local Heavyweight (91+kg) Joseph Joyce and the Irish duo, Olympic Silver medallist John Joe Nevin and European Champion Joe Ward.
After finishing the regular season undefeated and as the top ranked Bantamweight (50-54kg), the electrifying Selby will once again look to wow the crowds at York Hall with his highly entertaining blend of showboating and lightening quick hands. The 24-year-old has made the transition to the pro format with ease, with his style a lot more suited to it. Exuberant and sometimes over-confident, he has been criticised in some quarters for over-doing it, though his scintillating victory over Michael Conlan in week six confirmed that when facing a pedigree fighter, he will always up his game.
With a quality victory over 2012 WSB World Champion Filip Hrgovic earlier this year, Joseph Joyce established himself as one of the top boxers in the division. Although he then suffered defeat at the hands of Oleksandr Usyk, the Londoner, who has only been boxing for five years, remains a lethal weapon at this level, mixing power and speed to devastating effect. He has been one of the surprise packages in the competition and will be favourite against any of the Guerreros’ Heavyweights.
Aston Brown will get his big shot against Mexico, with the 21-year-old orthodox Scot scheduled to box for the very first time on home soil. With two defeats on the road, it is now time for him to deliver and with Fred Evans licking his wounds from a heavy loss to Dmytro Mytrofanov, Brown now has the opportunity to shine. Overconfident at times, he needs to knuckle down and concentrate on his boxing as he has a tendency to showboat and get carried away by the atmosphere. Tall and rangy, he however has all the attributes needed to succeed at this weight.
The London 2012 Olympic Games saw Ireland’s John Joe Nevin achieve superstar status in his homeland after he claimed a sensational silver medal. He surprisingly began the season with a defeat to Serbian sensation but the fleet-footed 23-year-old came back strong to record a classy victory against 2008 Olympic silver medallist Daouda Sow. Calculating and precise, Nevin is an entertainer with silky skills.
Junior, Youth and European Champion and still only a teenager, Ward has confirmed his reputation as one of the best fighters in the competition with a string of solid performances. Although he suffered a slight dip around his time of his preparation for the Irish nationals, he came back strong to claim a fourth win in five in week ten. Subtle and at times conservative, he is an expert counter-puncher with a devastating repertoire of shots in his arsenal, a joy to watch.
Mexico will be banking on their boxers to spring a couple of surprises in order to go back home and prepare for the second leg with some valuable away points. 19-year-old southpaw Aaron Alameda Lopez has proved a tough opponent to beat but with a 1-4 record in WSB, getting anything from his contest with Selby will be extremely difficult.
Everyone would have relished seeing Juan Pablo Romero, last year’s WSB Lightweight (57-61kg) Champion, in action versus Nevin however the Guerreros will be looking to the impressive Fernando Alvarez Diaz to upset the Lionhearts’ orthodox boxer. The young Mexican, also still only a teenager, has three wins from four in his debut season, with his only defeat coming away to 2007 AIBA World Champion Albert Selimov so he could prove to be Nevin’s toughest opponent to date.
Charismatic Irishman Conrad Cummings will be fired up coming into his bout, knowing there are two of his countrymen in the opposite team. Recruited over the summer by Mexico, Cummings has put in some assured displays and has shown great heart when under pressure. His confrontation with Brown is one to really look forward to.
Albanian southpaw Christian Demaj and Serbian Heavyweight Milutin Stankovic complete the Mexican quintet of boxers to face the Lionhearts. This two face uphill battles against proven opposition so it will be a very difficult night for the Guerreros at York Hall. As always though, the boxing will be top-class.