The World Series of Boxing (WSB) “Bad Boys”, the Azerbaijan Baku Fires threw down the gauntlet to the other teams in this first Season IV quarter-final match-up.
In an emphatic statement of intent, the Fires systematically picked the Season II Champions, the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder apart, leaving them in need of a miracle to salvage their season. As it stands, the Fires will progress to the semi-finals unless the Thunder can win all five remaining bouts in the return leg, and even then they will have to win an additional tiebreaker. Italia fans fear that it will be almost impossible.
The Light Flyweights (46-49kg), Bantamweights (56kg), Light Welterweights (64kg), Middleweights (75kg) and Heavyweights (91kg) contested this match.
Bout of the match
Azeri Bantamweight Magomed Gurbanov found himself in all kinds of trouble early on in round one against Khedafi Djelkhir of France who was boxing for the Italia Thunder. The Fires man found himself on his back after a colossal shot early in round one and for a while it looked like we would be on the verge of witnessing a major upset. As the bout moved on however, the Azeri got himself back into contention and the Frenchman landed less frequently, whilst Gurbanov was able to put together some very fluid combinations. He hung in there to turn the bout around, and for sheer tenacity he deserves to be the Boxer of the match. But unfortunately he was piped to the post at the last moment and that accolade is reserved for…
Boxer of the match
… Abdulkadir Abdullayev, for his stunning first round knockout of World Heavyweight Champion Clemente Russo of the Italia Thunder. The Azeri dropped the great Italian at 2:36 of the very first round with an immense left hook to the body. This marked the first time in his 22 fight history in the WSB that Russo has been knocked out, meaning the London 2012 silver medallist now sees his record slip to 19-3. Abdullayev meanwhile takes his record to 9-2 and proves he is one of the WSB’s top Heavyweights. Moreover, having won five of those nine wins by TKO or KO, and averaging at least one such stoppage a season for over the last 4 years in the WSB, he must now be considered a fearsome boxer indeed. What is truly exciting is that the Fires boxer is still only 25 years old. What a prospect that makes him!
The turning point
Middleweights Khaybula Musalov and Bogdan Juratoni both looked good in the ring at Middleweight. The Azeri made it almost impossible for the Italian to off-load his punches in the first three rounds, but came off the gas in round four after comprehensively dominating the opening phases. Juratoni was unable to capitalise sufficiently though on this slow down and it was Musalov who walked out with the win.
Fact/Stat of the match
The Italia Thunder have the best home record in the WSB history, having now won over 100 bouts at home, and never having lost a match. To turn this quarter-final around in the second leg, they will need to draw on that record and produce a perfect performance, including winning a tiebreaker bout.
Mark Barriga of the Italia Thunder was unfortunate to see his night end as early as round two because of a cut stoppage caused by a big right hand from Khamza Nametov of the Baku Fires. The result was a good one for the Azeri, as Barriga had been seen as the Light Flyweight discovery of the season. Nametov, who now goes 3-1, with his only loss to Yosbany Veitia of Cuba, now stamps his own claim on that particular title.
Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev looked confident against Renato De Donato and secured a comfortable looking victory to take him to 4-1 in the WSB. The Azeri of course came to prominence after beating the Cuban Yasnier Toledo in Week 5. After slipping up in Week 9, this now gets him back on track. It will be interesting to see how his career develops from here.
Coming up next
The return leg will be a seriously difficult up-hill struggle for Italy on April 5 at the Casino Campione of Campione d’Italia.