The World Series of Boxing (WSB) Season IV has already been widely regarded as the very best edition of the tournament, and we now reach the Finals’ weekend, where Azerbaijan Baku Fires and Cuba Domadores will be battling out in a two-legged, ten bout event encompassing two days with the ultimate winner crowned Season IV Champion.
This event is taking place in the beautiful city of Baku, Azerbaijan on Friday 6th and Saturday 7th June at the Sarhadchi Olympic Sport Complex.
The host team – Baku Fires have been an integral part of WSB since its debut season, and have reached their first Finals thanks to their phenomenal home record this season, winning six of their seven matches and amassing a 28-7 score in Azerbaijan.
However, their lone home defeat was against Cuba Domadores, who in their debut season are unbeaten in all but one match, with an incredible 57-13 record in all contests.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires have already knocked out the defending WSB Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in the semi-finals, while Cuba disposed of a very strong Russian team in their semi-final contest.
Because Azerbaijan have won matches by large margins all season, they are more than ready to compete, especially as they have the huge support of the local crowd
The Baku Fires Managing Director Rizvan Genzhiyev has always been confident about his teams chances, and has had a familiar quote throughout all four WSB seasons, stating that:
“There is only one result which satisfies me – 5-0”
When answering a question from the media regarding which result he would be happy with after the first match of the Finals with Cubans, Genzhiyev said that he would like to stick to the tradition and he hopes for 5-0 result.
The Cubans are also proud of their line-up, and the Head Coach of Cuban team Rolando Acebal explained that although two of their boxers competing in the first leg lack WSB experience, they are extremely skilled and talented, and because of that they will showcase their great potential when competing tomorrow.
WSB Chief Executive Officer Karim Bouzidi has worked tirelessly this season to produce an amazing season of boxing, and his quotes before the Finals showed his excitement in regards to the fantastic Finals weekend in store for fight fans.
“It was a real pleasure to follow every single match of both finalists in Season IV, and I find it rather symbolic that these Finals will see a debuting team, and a veteran team of our competition compete to become winners. This is not to mention that this Season IV has been the most unpredictable, the most intense and the most competitive season ever.” – added the WSB Chief Executive Officer.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires vs. Cuba Domadores
The first contest of the Finals is at Bantamweight (56kg), with Magomed Gurbanov representing the Azerbaijan Baku Fires, against Cuba’s Norlan Yera.
Gurbanov is 2-2 in WSB this season, but has won his last two fights in the competition, both home wins against France’s Beijing 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist Khedafi Djelkhir, and Russia’s Nikita Fedorchenko.
Norlan Yera meanwhile is 0-1 in WSB, with his lone appearance a points’ loss to Russia’s Vladimir Nikitin in the semi-finals.
Yera however does have memories of success in Baku, as he gained a silver medal at the 2010 AIBA Youth World Boxing Championships held in Azerbaijan, and he will be hoping that his positive experience will outweigh his lack of game time in WSB.
The second fight of the evening involves the Middleweights (75kg) who will be aiming to entertain the crowds and claim a win for their team.
Azerbaijan’s Khaybula Musalov takes on Cuba’s Arlen Lopez in a bout many technical boxing fans are salivating over.
Musalov is now in his third WSB season, and is fifth ranked at Middleweight this season with a 2-0 record for Baku Fires, including a win over Cuba Domadores’ Ramon Luis in the Regular Season.
His experience in WSB is unmatched by many competitors, and especially his opponent Arlen Lopez who lost his only WSB contest in the semi-finals, against Russia’s Artem Chebotarev.
Despite losing that bout, Lopez impressed with his strength and tenacity, and he will need to heavily rely on those attributes against Musalov, who is three years older than his Cuban opponent, and will be the favourite to win here.
Following this, is an intriguing Light Flyweight (46-49kg) contest, between Azerbaijan’s Khamza Nametov, who takes on Cuba’s number one ranked Yosbany Veitia.
Nametov is 3-2 in WSB this season, with his best performance of the season a TKO win over the third ranked Light Flyweight Mark Anthony Barriga in the quarter-finals.
While he will be counting on the support of his home fans, his opponent Yosbany Veitia will certainly not let the crowd distract him in the slightest.
The Cuban has a perfect 7-0 record in WSB this season, and has already comfortably beaten Nametov this season, away in Azerbaijan in week five.
Veitia has been one of the most exciting fighters in WSB, and his undefeated record will make him a huge favourite for this fight, with Nametov looking to win this rematch.
The fourth fight of the night is one that could potentially be the most entertaining battle of the entire Finals weekend.
Light Welterweight (64kg) sees a contest between Azerbaijan’s vastly experienced Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev, against the number one ranked Cuban Yasnier Toledo.
Toledo is 5-1 in WSB this season, but his lone loss came in week five, away in Azerbaijan against the very man he is fighting against in the final, Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev.
Gadzhialiyev is 4-1 this season, with the highlight of his WSB career his win over Toledo, but the fight was exceptionally close, as Gadzhialiyev won the clash by just one point on all three judges’ scorecards.
A noticeable fact is that Toledo won the last round from all three judges in his first fight, and the southpaw star achieved a bronze medal at the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku.
The fourth fight can always mark a turning point in WSB, and this could be a perfect example of that happening yet again, as Toledo seeks to avenge his lone WSB loss.
How can anybody follow that contest? Well the last fight of the evening could be a definitive one in terms of the Finals weekend, with the winner giving his team a lot of confidence going into the second leg on day two in Baku.
Azerbaijan’s Abdulkadir Abdullayev goes one on one in a Heavyweight (91kg) contest against the man who is arguably been the best pound for pound boxer in WSB this season, Cuba’s Erislandy Savon.
Abdullayev has been involved in WSB since the very first season, putting together a record of 9-3. However, two of those losses have occurred this season, both points defeats to Kazakhstan’s Vasiliy Levit.
Savon is one of the most highly rated boxers to have ever taken part in WSB, and as the nephew of the Cuban legend Felix Savon, he has the weight of his proud boxing nation on his broad shoulders.
The Cuban has won all six of his WSB matches this season, with three stoppage wins in that record, as well as a point’s win in Azerbaijan in week five against Danis Latypov.
While he will be the favourite in the bout, Abdullayev produced perhaps the performance of the season when he became the first man to knock out Italian legend Clemente Russo in the quarter-finals, and he will be looking to knock down an aspiring legend again in Baku.