The World Series of Boxing (WSB) Team Finals will be held in Astana on May the 10th and 11th and it promises to be the best in WSB’s three year history. Two of the top teams, the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan and Ukraine Otamans are preparing their troops for action in front of a global audience. The event in Kazakhstan will also bring together representatives from all the teams from this year’s WSB as guests of honour.
Now boxers from both teams are in the final phases of their preparation with the coaching staff known to be considering various tactical schemes. Fans meanwhile are looking forward to two days of uncompromising battles in the ring.
On paper, the Otamans might look to be at a disadvantage. Having lost twice in succession to Kazakhstan in the regular season, they now also face the duel challenge of both fighting away from home and facing Sergiy Korchynsky, Arlans’ head coach. Korchynsky, as the former Ukrainian Olympic coach has intimate knowledge of the Otaman team. He also has experience of winning in WSB, having successfully led the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder team to victory last season.
However, the results of the previous two meetings of these teams this season could be misleading as despite losing to Kazakhstan twice on the trot, Ukraine has added firepower to its line up and its strongest boxers are now available to enter the fray.
To understand how they assess their own chances of winning, we talked to the Ukraine Otamans General Manager Dmitry Gaistruk.
Dmitry, let us congratulate you and your team for making it to the WSB Team Finals! How are your boxers doing?
Thank you, on behalf of our team I would also like to congratulate the Kazakh team for getting to the finals! Everyone in the Otamans team feels very good. After the semi-final fights we gave the whole team a few days of rest, and they are only returning to training now. We will gather together again for team training as early as this Sunday. In principle, we have been preparing for this all season. Each of our boxers is ready to enter the ring and prove that he deserves to box in the final.
You managed a great “comeback” in the second semi-final against Italy, which has forced many to change their opinion on your team. How did you manage to achieve such a result – was it the preparation of the team, their motivation, or something else?
Of course, the result was affected the experience of our trainers. They know how to instil confidence in the boxers. The guys want to win. We have in our team leaders who help younger boxers, and who are always pushing them. In terms of motivation we have no problems.
Are you happy to be facing Kazakhstan again?
Definitely I can tell you that we were all rooting for Kazakhstan in the semis. The two of boxing federations have long-established, warm and friendly relations and we are particularly supportive of one another. Our Federation President Vladimir Stepanovich Prodivus and all the senior executives of the Kazakhstan Boxing Federation, especially Serik Konakbayev get on very well. This was evident at the Olympic Games in London and other major AIBA international tournaments, and it continues in the WSB project. In addition, I want to say, the Kazakh team, of course, deserved their place in the finals much more than their semi-final opponents.
And didn’t you think that the Mexicans would be theoretically easier to beat in the final?
We are not looking for the easy way! (Laughs) If you were looking for the easy way out, we ourselves would have met with the Mexicans, taking third place. But we’re pretty confident; we dealt with a strong Azerbaijani team, and beat last year’s champions from Italy. And now ready to take on another tough team.
How do you assess your opponents?
We know the Arlans well. We met them twice during the regular season, and lost to them twice as well. But now we understand that the upcoming confrontation will be different. And our team line-up is also substantially different. We will have our strongest boxers with us, and because of this we may well be expected to win. And our less experienced boxers, such as Rostislav Archipenko, who lost at an early stage of the season, now have the experience of winning through hard fighting. As for the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, we respect their boxers and coaches, especially our compatriots. We know and respect Sergiy Korchinsky, and Sergiy Derevyanchenko, and your Kazakh boxers are also well-known to us. Of course, we consider “Arlanov” as the heaviest and strongest opponent. We are determined to win though, and realize that it is not going to be a walk in the park.
You practically have the Ukraine Olympic team in your side. Will that be the case next season? Will the boxers stay in the project, and if not – will WSB be as popular in your country?
Now we need to concentrate all our efforts on the Finals and winning the trophy, after that we will decide on the next season. We have the Ukraine and the Junior World Championships in August, and the new AIBA Pro Boxing (APB) project, and, of course, the ever exciting WSB, which so impressed our audience – not just the world of boxing in Ukraine, but also all the wider sporting community. It is very popular in our country.
Lack of foreign boxers, is that a fundamental policy of the Team?
We believe that for the development of boxing in Ukraine – it is necessary, not only for boxing itself, but also for its popularity. This line-up was the best, and we were able to create a competitive team largely without foreign players. Of course, in the end we had to agree with Alexandr Riscan from Moldova to solve our problem at Bantamweight.
Are you expecting your fans to travel to Astana?
We are doing our best to organize a fan-tour for the final, although it is not easy, given the May Day celebrations, considering the plane tickets and the cost of hotels in Astana. But the president of the Boxing Federation tasked us to support our boxers. Of course, we understand that the stadium will not be neutral territory. In Kazakhstan the local team will have an advantage in the arena. But we decided to go down a path that we used in the regular season in a match against the British team. We found that when on the road Ukrainian fans were very supportive and really helped our guys.
How important was the tactical scheme to the Ukrainian team?
Tactics, of course, has played and will play a fairly important role. This is not a competition in which, only one boxer has to fight. Let’s see what happens on May 10th and 11th. I would like to wish good luck to the Kazakh side on the organization of the WSB Team Finals. Hopefully, your media support is no less ambitious than ours.