This year’s finalists, part 1: The Arlans

Kazakhstan have been the World Series of Boxing’s nearly men for the last two seasons, but fittingly perhaps for a team named after the wolf alpha male, the Arlans have certainly been the leaders of this year’s WSB pack. As runners-up in the inaugural season and semi-finalists in Season II, the Kazakhs took this year’s campaign very seriously indeed.

A major statement of intent was made during the off-season as the Arlans brought in two time WSB Middleweight (68-73kg) Champion Sergey Derevyanchenko from Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder. The team, with boxers from nine different countries is now one of the largest and most international in the league.

The breadth of experience shows. Kazakhstan made it through to the group stage with only a single defeat in the Regular Season, (away against defending champions Italia Thunder). The run of victories included notable 5-0 wins over the USA Knockouts and the British Lionhearts, and a 4-1 away victory over the German Eagles that was also praiseworthy. Most importantly however, they notched up two wins over their opponents in this year’s final: the Ukraine Otamans. Whilst the Otamans will claim that their best boxers were not available for those matches, the psychological advantage must now lie with Kazakhstan.

The Arlans showed great home form in their play-off matches as well, taking both the Argentina Condors and Mexico Guerreros (5-0). The latter has been widely regarded by staff, coaches and players within the Arlans team as their best performance of the season. Coach Sergiy Korchynsky told us that the Arlans “had dissected the game of every Mexican boxer right down to the bones”.  He also praised his athletes for dealing with the pressure of the semi-finals. “I was very worried about the home performance. Boxing here is serious business so there is some pressure […] however, all my fears were unfounded: the boys demonstrated quality boxing and, most importantly, a good tactical approach”.

One of Arlans’ star boxers Samat Bashenov agrees with his coach: “For me our best match of the season was against Mexico”, he explains, “We had one step left to the finals and we took it. My last bout against Vazgen Safaryants [Mexico Guerreros] was my best too I think. Vazgan has a lot of experience in WSB and was very motivated. I anticipated his aggressive style and was ready to stop him”.

Another factor the Kazakhs have in their favour is that Korchynsky is a former coach of the Ukrainian Olympic Team. As the Chinese philosopher and military strategist Sun Tsu said in his epic treatise The Art of War, “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles”. Nothing could be closer to the truth in this encounter. The Arlans coach finds himself in the enviable position of having a tremendous insight into the skills and limitations of his opponent’s boxers. This should give him a tacticaladvantage in the planning phases and it should also enable him to corner his boxers very efficiently during the bouts themselves.

As we all know however, anything can happen in boxing, so we will need to wait and see if the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan are able to make it third time lucky on home soil.