The current WSB Champions Astana Arlans, who are managed by a full-time team of dedicated staff under General Director Bolat Mankenov and Head Coach Sergiy Korchynsky were third time lucky last year.
Runners-up in Season I, semi-finalists in Season II, the Arlans finally became Champions in Season III. After all this they are not keen on seeing the trophy leave this year and intend to defend their throne.
But the team has been drawn into the so called “Group of Death” which features the WSB bad boys the Azerbaijan Baku Fires, the proud Mexico Guerreros, tough underdogs Hussars Poland, an unknown quantity in the lethal Russian team and of course WSB new boys the Cuba Domadores. So things will not be that easy for the defending champions.
The Head Coach
The master tactician Sergiy Korchynsky, who led the Arlans to victory last year will again be at the helm of the outfit. Formally involved in coaching the Russian youth team under the guidance of Nikolaj Hromov, the Ukrainian Olympic boxing youth team, the Italian national Team for which he was acting as a consultant and finally the WSB Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder team, Korchynsky has taken two WSB titles in a row. That kind of experience will be important this year.
The Opening match will be hosted by the unique multifunctional complex “Almaty Towers” while all the remaining matches of the Season will be staged in the Baluan Sholak Palace of Sports in Almaty where the recent AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013 took place. This is good news for travelling teams and supporters who will find the venue more easily accessible than the venues in Astana were last year.
We caught up with Merey Akshalov who became the Asian and World Champion this year at Light Welterweight (64kg). We asked him to give us a close-up picture of what is going on in the team just several days before the WSB marathon starts.
Merey, it was an extremely successful year for you with two important golds in a row. Now you must be getting ready for the WSB launch. Tell us a bit how it is going; do you already know what your squad will look like?
There will be quite a few changes in our Team. In fact, I would say we have a new-look squad. As we announced yesterday at the Season IV Team presentation press-conference at our training camp, the number of boxers in the squad has increased to 35 athletes. The reason for this is the five additional weight categories we will be competing in.
However, the foreign contingent (or legionnaires as we call them) remained more or less the same. There will be four of them during the upcoming season in our squad: the Croatians, our Iranian boxer and Sergey Derevyanchenko. As for the Kazakh boxers, you will see only 8 athletes from the previous squad. But don’t worry, Alimbekov, Bashenov, Myrsatayev and Toitov are among them! All the new faces will be coming from the National Boxing Team. We all saw how good our team was at the World Championships in Almaty therefore I believe that the WSB newcomers will give us a boost to our performance. It is really great!
And what is the atmosphere in the team just days away from the Season’s Launch?
The guys are getting ready for the first match with the Azerbaijan Baku Fires already and we have the boxers lined-up for this match. To tell the truth I am still recovering from the World Championships so I will be able to join my team for the following matches.
There will be some innovations as of this season of the WSB competition, notably with ten weight categories instead of five. What do you think of this?
I think it is good. We all got used to competing within the ten weight categories of the AOB competitions and five weight categories was quite inconvenient as we had to adjust our weight all the time. Personally I had to compete in the 64 kg category while my real weight is 61kg. Making sure you have always 3kg more weight than you actually should have was not easy. So I welcome this decision.
What are the lessons that your team learned in the Season III?
I believe we did everything right as the Trophy is with us now. Hopefully we can repeat that this year.
What are this Season’s objectives for your team?
The main objective is to keep the Champions Title.