Interestingly, last weekend all the victories went to the teams who survived the “Group of Death” and was arguably the best Regular Season group ever assembled. Did the experience of making it through the tough Group B positively impact upon the performances of those teams, or was it just coincidence? We’ll find out soon enough!
With the announcement that the UK’s leading sports broadcaster BT Sport will be airing the quarter-final second leg between the Russian Boxing Team and the Ukraine Otamans live from Donetsk, the World Series of Boxing (WSB) is clearly moving from strength to strength. And it is little wonder when you have matches like these coming up!
Ukraine Otamans vs. Russian Boxing Team (1st leg score 1-4)
04/04/2014, 16:00 (GMT) – Register here to watch LIVE and see highlights on AIBAboxingTV
It was a tough night in the office for the Season III runners-up, the Ukraine Otamans as they got soundly beaten by a convincing looking Russian side last weekend. They now find themselves in quite a precarious position should they wish to advance to the semi-finals. Russia’s boxers in the first leg, looked more composed, better conditioned and generally more capable in the ring. Whether they can maintain that form in Ukraine however is another thing entirely. In truth this looks like it will be something of a struggle for both teams. The Russians are ahead, but the Ukrainian team will not go down without a real fight.
Lightweight (60kg) Pavlo Ishchenko looks like a strong candidate for the Otamans. He has been excellent this season as he tries to fill the big boots left by Vasyl Lomachenko. His only loss has come to the genuinely world class Brazilian Robson Conceicão and even then, he gave his opponent a run for his money. Elsewhere however we can expect the Russians to cause problems with the likes of Alexander Besputin at Welterweight (69kg) and Eduard Yakushev at Light Heavyweight (81kg), who have looked solid in their recent outings and could cause the Ukrainian team difficulties in getting the four wins that they need.
The sporting aspect aside, both teams have been commended by the AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu for their professional and sportsmanlike approach to the match, in what are clearly difficult circumstances:
“I want to express my gratitude once again to both Franchises, the boxers, officials and all fans that have come to support their teams over the two legs of this quarter-finals, for their dedication to the WSB”, said Dr Wu. “Sportsmanship has a unique power and this quarter-final has proved it”.
He went on to praise the host city, saying: “I am delighted that this match will be held in the city of Donetsk, which is known for its strong boxing tradition. I am convinced that the local audience will enjoy the WSB a lot tonight. And hopefully the competition will come back here again in the future, bringing the best possible boxing action to an appreciative audience”.
Finally he pointed out the importance of the match. “This second leg is extremely important as it will determine who will become the first semi-finalist in Season IV of the WSB”, he said on his way to Donetsk from Moscow for today’s match.
Cuba Domadores vs. USA Knockouts
05/04/2014, 00:30 (GMT) – Register here to watch LIVE and see highlights on AIBAboxingTV
Arguably one of the most highly anticipated matches in WSB history, this mouth-watering encounter will doubtless have boing fans drooling. One American boxer failed to make weight which will make life increasingly difficult for the Knockouts. If they weren’t already the underdogs in this encounter, then they certainly are now with a 1-0 disadvantage. However, the American can-do spirit dies hard.
Gabriel Maestre and Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo will probably be the pick of the bunch at Welterweight. This is a category in which the WSB seems to be producing a glut of incredibly accomplished pugilists. Maestre has been very impressive in the last six months, with an outstanding performance at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013 and an unbeaten debut season so far in the WSB. Meanwhile 2012 London Olympic Champion Iglesias Sotolongo (who incredibly is not the Cuban first pick, which just shows how strong the competition in the category is), has also gone to 2-0 in the WSB. One will remain unbeaten. The other will taste defeat for the first time. But which will be which?
There is also an interesting match-up at Super Heavyweight (91+kg) between Swedish boxing star Mohamed Sallah who is fighting for the Knockouts and is unbeaten in the WSB (2-0) and Cuba’s Yoandi Toirac (1-1). The 19 year old Toirac has impressed, winning his WSB debut by TKO, but struggling against Russia’s experienced Maxim Babanin. Sallah could be one of the USA’s top hopes for an away victory, yet on the other hand Toirac is developing at such a pace that things will not be easy for the big Swede.
Astana Arlans Kazakhstan vs. Team Germany (1st leg score 3-2)
05/04/2014, 13:50 (GMT) – Register here to watch LIVE and see highlights on AIBAboxingTV
The Germans put on a very spirited display against the defending champions in their home leg and that makes this one of the most open quarter-finals of the weekend on paper. A repeat of the score-line in Kazakhstan’s favour however would see the “Alpha Wolves” progress at the expense of the Eagles.
At Welterweight, Vjaceslav Kerber (2-1) could surprise for the Germans, he has had a good season to date, winning both his bouts. His opponent Meirim Nursultanov has had more mixed results on his debut season and stands at 1-1.
The bouts of the night however should be those at the heavy-end of the spectrum. Super Heavyweights Ruslan Mursatayev (12-5) and double World bronze medallist Erik Pfeifer (5-0) should put on a good show for the crowd in Almaty, so too should Light Heavyweights Hrvoje Sep (14-6) and Serge Michel (4-3). Michel has lost to Sep before in Week 5 of last season’s. At 25, he will have undoubtedly improved in the last 14 months, but will the desire for revenge outweigh the fear of a repeat performance? Only time will tell.
Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder vs. Azerbaijan Baku Fires (1st leg score 0-5)
05/04/2014, 19:00 (GMT) – Register here to watch LIVE and see highlights on AIBAboxingTV
After a deeply disappointing first leg performance which included a shock first round knockout of Italian Heavyweight (91kg) World Champion Clemente Russo, Italia Thunder fans are left needing a miracle to progress to the semi-finals. Failure to do so though would mark the first time in three years that the Season II winners have not made it to that stage of the competition, and with the embracement of riches in the depth and quality of their squad this year, that would be quite a statement by their opponents, the WSB “Bad Boys”, the Baku Fires.
History is on Italy’s side for this as a stand-alone leg. They are the only team to have gone unbeaten at home over four years, but a 3-2 win will not be enough overall this weekend, they will need to score a perfect 5-0 to take this match into a tiebreaker and that will be tough.
The Thunder will look to Welsh whiz kid Andrew Selby to set them off on the right foot at Flyweight (52kg). Still unbeaten over two seasons and eight bouts in the WSB, the current World bronze medallist and European Champion looks the better boxer on paper in comparison to his opponent Elvin Mamishzada who is 3-1, but was still good enough to compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games and to take a silver in the 2010 European Championships.
Given that a single loss would end it for the Thunder, potential areas where they could slip up are at Super Heavyweight where Fires boxer Arslanbek Makhmudov is on an awesome run this season. Welterweight Mahamed Nurudzinau is now 7-3 across four seasons and has wins against the likes of Ireland’s Conrad Cummings on his CV. His opponent Vincenzo Mangiacapre (5-1), although an Olympic bronze medallist, has less ring time in the WSB and has lost one of his three outings this season. Can the Thunder find the class to scrape through or will the Fires burn down the house in Italy? Find out on AIBAboxingTV.com.