12 franchise teams, 74 matches, 371 bouts and the announcement that Cuba will be joining the fray next year; this season’s World Series of Boxing (WSB) has been the most exciting yet. We look back at some of the key moments.
Change of format and new teams
This season saw a switch to a nationally organised format rather than a city based franchise system. New teams joined the WSB line up, such as Algeria Desert Hawks, Argentina Condors, The British Lionhearts, Hussars Poland and the Ukraine Otamans. Not only did this open WSB up to significant new boxing markets but it also brought in multiple Olympic Medallists such as Vasyl Lomachenko and Oleksandr Usyk from the Otamans and Olympic Silver medallist Fred Evans from the Lionhearts.
Mexico’s home record finally broken
The Mexico Guerreros enjoyed an impeccable home record right the way through to the semi-finals. Their run of outstanding form saw them beat: Hussars Poland 4-1, Algeria Desert Hawks 3-2, Russia 3-2, Argentina Condors 5-0, and Baku Fires 5-0. They then beat the British Lionhearts in the quarter-finals, before finally succumbing to eventual winners Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in the semis. The British Lionhearts also had a good string of home performances, remaining unbeaten until their week ten defeat to finalists Ukraine Otamans.
Ukraine surge back
After a surprisingly slow start to the campaign, the Otamans pulled off an astonishing late rally. Early on in the season, many were surprised that the star studded Ukrainian franchise did not field their top boxers. Their consecutive loses to Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, the German Eagles, Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder, before losing again to the Arlans in week six made it look likely that the Otamans would be out of the competition. They rallied in style however and announced their intentions with a 5-0 drubbing of the German Eagles at home. Their performances continued to impress as they beat Italia Thunder 4-1 and cracked the (until then) perfect British Lionhearts home record (3-2) in week ten to put them through to the play-offs.
This season WSB had the honour of hosting the first ever boxing event in El Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square as the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan took on hosts the Mexico Guerreros in the semi-finals. Formally named Plaza de la Constitución, the square is located in the heart of the city. At 57,600 square meters, it is one of the largest city squares in the world and has been a gathering place for Mexicans since the Aztec times. The Arlans won on the night but the real victor was the sport of boxing itself.
Team Finals goes the distance
The high-drama WSB Team Finals contained the most explosive line up of fighters to date with the likes of Olympic Gold Medallists Lomachenko and Usyk going head to head with the Arlans’ deep ranks of international stars. Eleven bouts were fought across two days with the Ukraine leading 5-4 coming into the final exchange. In a make or break Heavyweight (91+kg) bout, the experienced Kazakh boxer Ruslan Myrsatayev struggled to contain his Otamans opponent, Rostyslav Arkhypenko, with both boxers winning two rounds each. Thus the whole season hung on one final round. It was phenomenally closely fought, but neither athlete was able to gain a clear advantage, so it went to a judge’s decision. The victory was awarded to the Arlans boxer, which tied the scores at 5-5 triggering a sudden death bout to determine who would be the 2013 WSB Champion.
Here Arlans’ tactics proved golden as WSB number 3 ranked Bantamweight (50-54kg) Bagdad Alimbekov, who had been held back from the main bouts, specifically to deal with the risk of a sudden death scenario, outclassed his inexperienced opponent, Alexandr Riscan.
This was the third straight defeat the Otamans had suffered in the hands of the Arlans team this season. That will leave the Ukrainian coaches looking for ways to achieve more clear cut and decisive victories in the future.
Cuba joins WSB for Season IV
Cuba, one of the boxing world’s powerhouse nations announced in April that it will join WSB for Season IV. As the most successful boxing nation in the history of the Olympic Games with 32 gold medals and talent available in depth, the new Cuban Franchise should take WSB to a whole new level.
All in all the season was a huge success for WSB, which is going from strength to strength, but more importantly, it was a success for the athletes, fans and the sport of boxing as a whole. We can look forward to Season IV and the arrival of Cuba with almost giddy anticipation.