Many people were excited about the prospect of two of the best teams in World Series of Boxing (WSB) competing in the semi-finals, and the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, and the Azerbaijan Baku Fires lived up to the hype, with five engrossing fights delighting the watching audience at Almaty Sport Palace, and those watching around the world.
Ultimately it proved to be a winning night for Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, the defending WSB Champions who won three of the bouts, with Azerbaijan Baku Fires winning two.
The Light-Flyweights (46-49kgs), Bantamweights(56kg), Light Welterweights (64kg), Middleweights (75kg) and Heavyweights (91kg) contested this match.
Bout of the match
The 2012 WSB Individual Champion Gairbek Germakhanov was involved in an excellent fight in his Bantamweight contest against Kazakhstan’s home favourite Madi Shulakov.
Both boxers fought with guts and heart, with the contest mainly taking place in the middle of the ring, with plenty of hard punches in every round.
This contest was expected to be good considering what was at stake, but it turned out to be even better than many initially thought. After Astana Arlans Kazakhstan won the first fight, Germakhanov gave it his all to even things up, and he did ultimately winning via split decision.
Such was the ferocity of the battle however, Shulakov will take a lot from it. The Kazakh looked full of power, and showed a great chin as right hand after right hand from his opponent consistently landed. The fact that one judge thought he won showed just how close the contest was, with the fans in the arena making a lot of noise.
Boxer of the match
Sergiy Derevyanchenko is regarded as one of the greatest boxers in the history of WSB, and the Ukrainian Middleweight represents Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in the competition.
He took his 22-1 overall WSB record into the ring against the hard-hitting Azerbaijan favourite Soltan Migitinov, who had won three WSB matches via TKO in his career.
Derevyanchenko was impressive from the outset, utilising his efficient style with aplomb. The Ukrainian never seems to waste punches, and his tight defence meant that the powerful Migitinov struggled to land clean with any impactful hits.
Rounds one and two clearly went to Derevyanchenko, and after a barrage late in the third round, Migitinov staggered back to his corner on shaky legs. The Azerbaijan fighter was pulled out of the fight by his corner, which saw a TKO victory for Derevyanchenko, the only stoppage win of the evening.
The turning point
With the first two fights of the night being won by either team, the third bout was all important in maintaining momentum. It was fought at Light Welterweight, as Azerbaijan’s number three ranked fighter Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev took on the number four ranked Askhat Ualikhanov.
Although not the most exciting contest of the first leg, it was a tactical, cagey affair, and as is so often the case in matches of that style, the judges were torn on which fighter was winning.
While the first and second judges had pretty much made up their minds heading into the final round, the third judge had the contest even at the end of round four. The effort of Gadzhialiyev impressed that particular judge in the fifth, which resulted in a win for the Baku Fires boxer via a very close split decision.
One judge scored the contest 50-45 to Ualikhanov, while another scored it 49-46 to Gadzhialiyev. The third judge’s scoreline is 48-47 meant that Azerbaijan Baku Fires only lost the first leg 3-2, rather than 4-1, which could prove decisive in the second leg.
Quote of the match
“He did work hard, but he didn’t have anything to show for it, because he didn’t have enough scoring shots” – WSB commentator Steve Holdsworth on Azerbaijan’s Heavyweight Abdulkadir Abdullayev who tried hard against the Kazakh Vasilii Levit, but was dominated in the fight.
Temirtas Zhussupov started the night off in style for Kazakhstan against the Azeri boxer Khamza Nametov at Light-Flyweight. Zhussupov had only won once in Season IV while Nametov had three successes against some good names this season
Despite the disparity in wins, it was Zhussupov who proved victorious in an entertaining and highly fast paced contest. The home favourite suffered a bad cut in round three, but didn’t let his crimson mask, nor the power of Nametov affect his performance.
In the last bout of the evening was a Heavyweight clash between the number two ranked Vasilii Levit against the seventh ranked Azerbaijan powerhouse Abdulkadir Abdullayev. These two boxers had previously met in week one, with Levit winning by a close contest on points.
The rematch resulted in a much more decisive win for Levit, who controlled every single round of the fight, and managed to negate Abdullayev’s power by throwing many more punches than his opponent.
It was Levit who showed the true force in the contest, and a big punch from him caused the referee to issue a standing count in the fourth round to Abdullayev. Levit always comes strong at the end of rounds, and the Heavyweight is now 6-0 this season in WSB.
Coming up next
The second leg of this semi-final takes place on May 3rd, and The Azerbaijan Baku Fires will be at home at Guba Olympic Complex.
A final against either Cuba Domadores or Russian Boxing Team will awaits the winner of this semi-final, with Kazakhstan a slight favourite due to their 3-2 victory at home.