USA and Cuba to face-off

The World Series of Boxing (WSB) has announced a historic quarter-final match-up between two of the world’s boxing super-powers: the United States of America and Cuba. English/Spanish/Russian

For the first time in the WSB history, the USA and Cuba will face off in a team vs team format across five rounds of boxing in all ten Olympic weight categories. The very arrival of the Cuban Franchise in the WSB was in itself a sporting landmark that generated international excitement in the boxing community. Since 1962, when Fidel Castro banned Cuban athletes from boxing under pro-style, no Cuban boxer had been allowed to box over the three rounds used in the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) Open Boxing (AOB) events; that is, until last November when the Cubans joined AIBA’s pioneering WSB league.

The WSB is one of the most exciting emerging sports leagues in the world. Bringing together the best boxers on the planet to compete in a team format across ten weight categories, the WSB represents a whole new way of thinking about boxing.

This team versus team approach has seen some of the most exciting clashes imaginable between the world’s top fighters on a national scale. USA vs. Mexico, Germany vs. Italy, Ukraine vs. Russia are among the major matches that have been enjoyed over the four years of the competition to date. Now, after both teams have successfully secured qualification from the Regular Season to the Playoffs, we have the announcement that the USA and Cuba are expected to meet in the Season IV quarter-finals.

The two-leg event which would take place in Miami and Havana, featuring five boxers from each team both locations, is widely anticipated to be the biggest boxing event of the year, if not the decade.

The USA Knockouts, as the team is known in the WSB, have been highly strategic this year, especially in the recruitment of new talent. The likes of Steven Fulton, a 19 year old from West Philadelphia who started boxing aged 12. He came onto the USA Knockout’s radar when he won the 2013 Golden Gloves championships. He has had a real impact for the team at Bantamweight (56kg), winning two of his three bouts and only losing to the World number one ranked boxer Alberto Melian from Argentina, in what was a tough WSB debut for Fulton.

The American Franchise also brought in a number of foreign boxers, as is permitted under WSB rules, such as Gabriel Maestre from Venezuela. As the current World bronze medallist, Maestre has made such an impact in the WSB that the 27 year old has been given a world ranking of 3rd in the Welterweight (69kg) category following his unbeaten run in his debut season.

The Cubans however, will not be an easy team to defeat and are widely considered favourites in the match. They have been unbeaten as a team thus far in the competition and have won 39 of their 45 individual bouts so far since joining the WSB in November 2013. This fabulous record has enabled them to dominate Group B, nicknamed the “Group of Death”, which has widely been viewed as the toughest group ever drawn in the WSB, including the likes of defending Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, the Russian Boxing Team, the WSB “Bad-Boys” the Azerbaijan Baku Fires, Season III semi-finalists the Mexico Guerreros and the tough Season III quarter-finalists, the Hussars Poland. The USA’s performance was by comparison fairly modest, finishing fourth in the Group A table behind Season II winners, the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder, Season III runners-up, the Ukraine Otamans and Team Germany.

The Cuban team includes the likes of Current Olympic Champion Robeisy Ramírez at Flyweight (52kg), both Olympic and former World Champion Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo and current World silver medallist Arisonidys Despaigne at Welterweight, two-time World Champion Julio Cesar La Cruz at Light Heavyweight (81kg). They also have Heavyweight (91kg) Erislandy Savon, the nephew of the great Felix Savon, a three time Olympic gold medallist and six-time World gold medallist.

Whilst the USA team is a young side with a bright future before them, the Cubans are all established world-class athletes. The question is, can the youthful verve of the USA team overcome the experience of the unbeaten Cubans? Only time will tell.