The Azerbaijan Baku Fires showed their grit when they became only the second team in the history of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) to win bouts against the Cuba Domadores, after the defending champions, the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, achieved the same feat before Christmas. The Fires came a good deal closer to winning outright however with it requiring supreme intervention from Cuban star boxer Erislandy Savon to prevent the Domadores from getting burnt.
From the Domadores point of view however, they have now defeated yet another rival away from home and remain unbeaten in the WSB. Only the Russian team now stands between the Domadores and a white wash in away matches. This was a perfect result for a team who has been through a difficult week which included the non-lethal shooting of one of their team members, in what is understood to have been an attempted armed robbery in Cuba.
The Light Flyweights (46-49kg), Bantamweights (56kg), Light Welterweights (64kg), Middleweights (75kg) and Heavyweights (91kg) were the boxers selected to fight this week.
Bout of the match
In an interesting juxtaposition the current WSB number one and two ranked Light Welterweight fighters went head to head as Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev took on Yasnier Toledo of the Domadores. Gadzhialiyev is a tricky boxer who predominantly boxes orthodox, but who is willing to come close to putting his other foot in front from time to time to get a full sting on his shots. He has only had two bouts so far in the WSB and has made a return from a two season absence. His layoff does not seem to have affected him though, and he looked very dangerous indeed in the ring against one of the best boxers in the world. Toledo, the confirmed southpaw, got given a standing eight count in the second round and the crowd was brought to life with the thought that their man may cause an upset. The Azeri boxer indeed managed to get ahead and hang on to deliver an outstanding result for the hosts and keep them in the competition. When he achieved this, the crowd went absolutely wild. Two bouts down before he came on the scene, the Fires were now back in it.
Boxer of the match
Yosbany Veitia looked absolutely untouchable against Khamza Nametov of the Azerbaijan Baku Fires. Nametov is no slouch but Yosbany made him look ordinary. By round three you could almost literally count on one hand the amount of significant contact the Azeri made with the Cuban. However the Fires boxer did have a better fourth and took the round. Veitia looked so relaxed and natural in the ring that the commentator mentioned that he looked like he was shadow boxing. Perhaps Nametov would have felt it more apt if he had been called the shadow, so hard was he to hit.
The turning point
With the score at 2:2 Erislandy Savon and Denis Latypov of Azerbaijan had to fight a bout that was almost akin to a sudden death one to determine the outcome of the match. In round one, the Azeri came out and really hustled the Cuban, causing him significant problems. However Savon came back in round two and made excellent use of his range. Thus the tactics were established. The question was who would be able to maintain their preferred distance? That turned out to be Savon. With stylish boxing that utterly silenced the crowd, the Cuban picked the Baku Fires pockets to steal the whole match back for the Cubans.
Magomed Gurbanov managed to get the home crowd warmed up against Robeisy Ramirez of Cuba. This was a very close fight, almost the proverbial physical chess with the southpaw Cuban using his speed against the solid looking Azeri. Gurbanov deserves credit for his incredible fitness level and his ability to really put the pressure on his opponents. Yet it was the Cuban boxer who took the bout after winning all but one round.
Azeri WSB veteran Khaybula Musalov was excellent against Ramon Luis. The Cuban boxer likes to dance and use the ring but the 9-3 Azeri was good at cutting the angles, strategic clinching and inside work to spoil the long range advantage of the Cuban. In essence, he strategically chose to turn the bout into a scrap, preventing the Cuban from executing his technical boxing. It was a tactically splendid move. In round three, the Cuban began to insist on his distance a bit more and looked a lot better. As things went on, it became increasingly hard to judge. It was so close that as the pair went into the final round, their scores were tied on 38:38 from all three judges. The whole match hinged on the actions of these two in the last round. It was Musalov who took the decision in the end, bringing the scores to 2-2 and completing the impressive Azeri fight back into the match.
Coming up next
The Cuba Domadores play host to the Mexico Guerreros in Havana and the Azerbaijan Baku Fires will be facing defending champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in a tricky home encounter.
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