In the most exciting and highly anticipated match of the season so far, the new kids on the block, the Cuba Domadores out-classed the defending champions the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in a thriller in Almaty.
The Flyweights (52kg), Lightweights (60kg), Welterweights (69kg), Light Heavyweights (81kg) and Super Heavyweights (91+kg) all got to take to the ring in this afternoon’s amazing World Series of Boxing (WSB) battle.
Bout of the match
Light Heavyweight World Champion Julio “The Doctor” La Cruz took on Astana Arlans WSB veteran Hrvoje Sep in a crunch match. Sep walked onto some very well-placed uppercuts early on and immediately opted to start working on the inside. Attempting to spoil the Cuban’s game by disrupting his rhythm, the Croatian began to make a menace of himself. While the Cuban took the first round, the Croatian put him under serious pressure in round two. Beautiful though La Cruz’s style is, boxing with your hands around your waist is inevitably risky. 99% of the time the Cuban looks good doing this, but against the scrappy Sep, there was the odd moment when he appeared vulnerable, with the Arlans man’s overhand right sometimes connecting well. This became a contrast of styles with La Cruz dominating at range when he could use his brilliant foot work to maximum effect and the Arlans fighter looking dangerous whenever he could cut the ring off and box on the inside. Sep boxed a tactically splendid bout, really disrupting the Cuban’s game. In the end though the Cuban was just too good and he took the bout over tough opposition to seal the win for the Cubans.
Boxer of the match
With the score tied to one bout apiece the pressure was really on both Bakhytzan Kozhabekov of the Arlans and Arisnoidys Despaigne of Cuba in their Welterweight bout. The crowd went crazy when the Cuban slipped in the first, with many of them thinking he had been knocked down from their viewpoint in the stands. The Cuban was alright though. The southpaw Kazakh boxer took round one against the World silver medallist Despaigne by using his height advantage, piling even more pressure on his opponent. The Cuban however battled his way back into it to take round two by split decision. Despaigne’s aggressive style, which was at first so unusual for a Cuban boxer, is quickly becoming familiar to fans and his overwhelming barrage gradually began to gain momentum as the bout wore on. The intensity continued to build with the Kazakh athlete starting to suffer tremendously. The referee had seen enough with a minute left in round three and Despaigne took his second TKO in two WSB outings. This was a standout performance even by Despaigne’s standards and if we haven’t already mused over the point, then surely today we have to wonder who out there is capable of stopping him this year?
The turning point
Flyweight Miras Zhakupov put in an incredible performance against Gerardo Cervantes of Cuba. The two orthodox boxers were in great form with the Kazakh boxer showing truly exceptional footwork and utterly dominating the range of the bout. With the Arlans man taking the opening three rounds, the Cuban fought back hard in the 4th to take the round. But going into the 5th, the Cervantes knew that the only way to take the bout was to knock his opponent out and he came out with the clear intention of achieving just that. Despite Cervantes really battering his Kazakh opponent for the whole round, the tactical Zhakupov had done enough at long range to hold onto the lead. This was a huge win for the Arlans number two pick, which brought him to 5-1 in the WSB and added another big name to his CV. More importantly this was the first time the Cuba Domadores had lost a bout in the WSB; thus it was Zhakupov who proved that even the mighty Cubans are not invincible.
Fact/Stat of the match
Until the Zhakupov vs Cervantes match the Cubans had gone 15 straight bouts without defeat.
Tonight also saw Filip Hrgovic get the 4th TKO of his illustrious Career in the WSB (see below).
Double world Champion Lazaro “the Prince” Alvarez struggled against WSB debutant Zhandos Momunov of Kazakhstan at Lightweight. The southpaw Cuban perhaps underestimated the skill level of his opponent, and also felt the psychological impact of his teammate Gerardo Cervantes having lost Cuba’s first ever bout just moments before he took to the ring. However, he soon got into his stride and by round three looked fairly comfortable. But credit is due to the inexperienced Arlans boxer for bravely pushing the Cuban hard.
Super Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic looked very confident going out against WSB debutant Jose Angel Larduet, the 2009 World Champion. But then the bout started. It then quickly became clear that these were very evenly matched boxers, with Hrgovic using his jab and cross in conjunction with his reach advantage, while the Cuban looked to land overhand rights and massive left hooks. Hrgovic began to have the better of the bout, drawing on his three seasons of prior experience in the WSB to drop the Cuban in the second. He gave him a standing eight in the third. The Cuban got another one with a minute to go and the referee had seen enough with 35 seconds left in the third round. This was an important bout for the Arlans as it gave them a valuable point to take away from this match, and gave them some breathing space between themselves and the pursuing Russian Boxing Team and Azerbaijan Baku Fires, one of whom could be breathing down their necks by the end of the weekend.
Coming up next
Following the Christmas break the Alpha Wolves will travel to the rather easier hunting grounds of Poland where they will take on a struggling but defiant Hussars team. The Domadores meanwhile will face the long trip to Azerbaijan, where they will take on the Baku Fires; a team that appears to be on the up.
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