Today, the 12 World Series of Boxing (WSB) Franchise teams announced their squads for Season IV (2013-2014). There were some interesting movements between teams and several new recruits picked up by all.
The Azerbaijan Baku Fires remain a predominantly national based team. Of a squad with almost thirty boxers, only five of them have come from outside the country. Importantly, they have retained the services of AIBA 2013 Super Heavyweight (91+kg) World Champion Magomedrasul Medzhidov who will be pivotal to their chances in the “Group of Death”. For a brief team overview visit http://bit.ly/HMYSdI
Their Group B rivals and newcomers in the League, the Cuba Domadores have announced one of the smallest teams in the league this year with just 22 boxers. It is possible that this could be the one chink in a formidable suit of armour as the season wears on and injuries and fatigue begin to take their toll. Nonetheless, their all-Cuban line-up is one of the richest in terms of quality that any team has ever started with. Featuring two current World champions and three World silver medallists, including the likes of World Champions Lazaro Estrada and Julio Peraza along with dangerous Heavyweight (91kg) Erislandy Savon, the “Tamers” will be serious contenders this year.
The Eagles of Team Germany have by contrast thirty-six boxers in their squad. Whilst the bulk of their team are indeed German nationals, there are some notable foreign inclusions. Irishman Michael Conlan who boxes at Bantamweight (56kg), takes his experience gained from working with the USA Knockouts last year to the German outfit. He will be joined by Lightweight (60kg) compatriot David Joyce. The Eagles have retained their talisman, 2013 Super Heavyweight World Bronze medallist Erik Pfeifer. Welterweight (69kg) World Bronze Medalist Arajik Marutjan and the impressive Harutyunyan brothers at Lightweight and Light Welterweight (64kg) respectively add steel to the back bone of a much improved looking Eagles side. With a wide open Group A, Team Deutschland will have a realistic chance of making it through to the Play-Offs.
The Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder have arguably had the most impressive off Season recruitment campaign. With all the talk about the Cuba Domadores, Ukraine Otamans and defending Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, you would be forgiven for overlooking the Italian team. However, the Season II Champions look set on being serious contenders in recovering their title in Season IV. Talented Irish Boxer Patrick Barnes has been brought in to make his long awaited WSB debut at Light Flyweight. The London 2012 bronze medallist will have to fight for his place against talented APB boxer Mark Barriga from the Philippines. Former British Lionheart Andrew Selby has been snatched up by the Italians at Flyweight (52kg), and former World Champion and 2013 World Silver Medallist Robson Conceicao of Brazil is in at Lightweight. World Silver Medallist and former LA Matador’s boxer Jason Quigley makes his return to the WSB at Middleweight (75kg) while Michel Tavares of France has retained his place in the team in the same weight class. Probably the Thunder’s greatest coup however was the prising of Super Heavyweight Mihai Nistor of Romania from the defending champions Astana Arlans. Nistor will almost certainly be contesting for a slot in the top five of his category this year, and successfully enticing this boxer away from the Arlans set-up is a huge statement of intent from the Italians. All that is before we even begin to mention their domestic talent such as current Heavyweight World Champion Clemente Russo or veteran Lightweight Domenico Valentino. The Thunder are going to turn some heads this year, that is for sure.
The defending champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan have clearly switched their focus to a domestic boxing team this year and have increased the number on their squad to about 45 boxers. After becoming the most dominant country at the World Championships, in Almaty, no wonder the team is confident about the standard of its home grown talent. The crowd however were a significant factor at the event, in keeping the local boxers psyched up. How those same boxers perform when in front of a hostile crowd in Mexico City or Baku may be another thing. Nonetheless, the Kazakhs are now the world’s dominant boxing nation and are right to put their faith in their own. Best AIBA Elite Man Boxer of 2013, World Champion Daniyar Yeleussinov is in the side at Welterweight and will be a force this year. WSB legend Sergiy Derevyanchenko from the Ukraine stays in the team. Middleweight World Champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly who Italia Thunder boxer Jason Quigley admitted “he couldn’t get near”, is also going to be in the squad. World Champion Birzhan Zhakipov will clearly not be a push over either at Light Flyweight. Overall, this is a team that deserves to be confident going into the season.
Season III semi-finalists, the Mexico Guerreros look solid again this year and will be led out by the Best WSB Boxer of the year, Elias Emigdio at Flyweight. Hussars Poland meanwhile will face an uphill struggle though with only 20 boxers on the roster. With ten weight categories being contested this year, this means that any injuries at all will put a lot of pressure on the reserve boxer. They will now face an even tougher challenge in the “Group of Death” as a result and will lean on Tomasz Jablonski, to lead them again.
The Russian Team have named around 50 boxers on their roster in complete contrast to their neighbours Poland. Their roll call includes some of the biggest names in their national team such as World Silver Medallist Vladimir Nikitin at Bantamweight. The question on everybody’s lips is: when will they be deployed this year? Because if the Russians choose to hold their top boxers back, they will run the risk of being dumped out of the competition early this year given the strength of their rivals.
Last year’s runners up, the Ukraine Otamans have again invested heavily in local talent. With Lomachenko and Usyk leaving the team at the end of last season, the attention will be on Middleweight Dimitry Mytrofanov to uphold the Otamans expectations this year. The USA Knockouts meanwhile will be hoping that the experience that their team gained last year will be enough to carry them through to the Play-Offs in a very open Group B.