The first leg of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Season IV Finals between Azerbaijan Baku Fires and Cuba Domadores took place in Baku, with the Cubans narrowly winning the night 3-2.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires have had an excellent home record all season, but came up against a Cuba Domadores team who had only lost one match in their debut season.
When two teams of such class match up , every fight becomes entertaining. The first leg showed plenty of skill and heart by both sets of boxers.
The Light Flyweights (46-49kgs), Bantamweight (56kg), Light Welterweights (64kg), Middleweights (75kg) and Heavyweights (91kg) contested this match.
Khamza Nametov started the night off for The Baku Fires against the undefeated Cuban Yosbany Veitia, who had already beaten Nametov earlier on in the WSB season.
The Light-Flyweights are always energetic, but Veitia took energy to another level, dazzling the watching audience with dynamic reflexes, fast hands, and some entertaining showmanship as well.
Veitia won the fight on all three scorecards, and utilised his head movement and speed with great regularity.
Nametov tried hard, but he just couldn’t get near the Cuban who more than justified his number one ranking at the weight class, and he stretched his perfect WSB record to 8-0 this season, and most importantly gave his team the dream start they were hoping for.
Bout of the match
Rarely do incredible fights end with such a decisive scorecard, but the Middleweight clash between Khaybula Musalov of The Baku Fires, and Cuba’s Arlen Lopez was thoroughly engrossing for all five rounds.
Lopez won the fight according the judges in a very convincing manner, but while he won the majority of the rounds with his potent jab and slick defense, a lot of credit must be given to Musalov who pressed forward in every minute of the match, even after being deducted a point before the start of round for.
Musalov was undefeated this season in WSB prior to this contest, while Lopez had lost his only previous WSB fight, but he fought like an experienced WSB veteran, knowing exactly when to attack and when to defend.
The tenacity of Musalov and the intelligence of Lopez combined to create a classic in Baku.
Boxer of the match
Cuban Heavyweight Erislandy Savon went into the last fight of the evening knowing that a win was needed to ensure his Domadores finished the first leg in a winning position.
His opponent, Abdulkadir Abdullayev made his name knocking out Italian icon Clemente Russo earlier this season, and would have had no fear of the slick Savon at the start of the contest.
Five rounds later Savon showed everyone just why he was undefeated in WSB, taking his record to 7-0 with a dominant performance that established his reputation as the best Heavyweight in WSB.
Although Savon is incredibly tall, he fights with so much fluidity, and the speed of his punches surprised Abdullayev who tried very hard, but just couldn’t get near his opponent, especially after being ordered to take a standing count in the fight due to a particularly powerful Savon punch.
Savon won the fight by unanimous decision, and ensured his team went into the second leg ahead on aggregate.
The turning point
Coming into the fourth fight of the evening, Cuba were leading 2-1, and were about to showcase the number one ranked Light Welterweight in WSB.
Yasnier Toledo was 5-1 this season, with his lone loss coming against the man he was facing in the Finals, Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev who narrowly defeated the Cuban by one point on all three judges’ scorecards in their earlier meeting.
The rematch was just as close, with Gadzhialiyev winning the first couple of rounds, before Toledo rallied in the next two rounds.
Going into the final round, Toledo was winning the fight on one scorecard, while the other two scorecards were dead level.
Gadzhialiyev ’s constant pressure just about attracted the judges more than Toledo’s flurries, and he took his record over the Cuban to 2-0 in WSB, with both wins coming by the narrowest of margins, and in this instance by just one point on two scorecards by split decision.
With Erislandy Savon winning the last fight of the evening, a win for Toledo here would have resulted in Cuba going into the second leg with a huge 4-1 advantage.
The performance of Gadzhialiyev ensured that Cuba will start the second leg with a lead of just one match.
The second bout of the evening was a Bantamweight clash between Azerbaijan’s Magomed Gurbanov and Cuba’s Norlan Yera.
Gurbanov was far more experienced in WSB than his opponent who had lost his only previous WSB fight, and he started the contest incredibly well, winning the first three rounds on all three scorecards.
Yera improved immensely in the fourth and fifth rounds, winning them both, but it was too little too late for the Cuban, whose inexperienced perhaps showed a little, as he failed to put his foot on the gas early enough for it to affect the outcome of the match.
Gurbanov won the fight 48-47 according to all three judges, with Yera showing a lot of potential, and he will come again next season.
Coming up next
The second leg is tomorrow, and Cuba will be the more confident of the two teams because of their winning advantage after the first leg. Who will prevail and become WSB Champion for Season IV? It’s still all to play for.