A few hours after the official draw for Season V of the World Series of Boxing (WSB), we were able to chat with Rizvan Gengiev, General Manager of WSB Season IV runners-up Azerbaijan Baku Fires. A talented leader of the team with an honest Caucasian character, was supporting his guys from the Baku Fires like nobody else when they came within one step of the Champions title in the preceding season boxing in their home ring against the seemingly invincible Cuba Domadores.
Today, when the bitterness of defeat is left behind, the draw opened up before the Baku Fires new opportunities on the horizon in the pre-Olympic season. We are pleased to present to you that very conversation with the mentor of the Azeri team – Rizvan Gengiev which took place at the end of the draw in Istanbul.
Mr Gengiev, how would you describe the position of your team in the group?
I would say straight away that teams we have are not weak. We were drawn with two former champions of the WSB, Italia Thunder and the winners in the third season of the competition, Astana Arlans Kazakhstan. Additionally, there is the complete mystery appearance of the new team from Venezuela. Considering the boxing traditions of this country, we understand that the Venezuelan team may turn out to be very strong. One other team who potentially might turn out very strong, are the Americans. This is logical because every team willwant to give a good account of themselves in the Olympic qualifying season.
There is also the geographical factor to consider. We will have four transatlantic flights, respectively, and the boxers will every have to go through acclimatization.
Who, in your opinion, will be the most difficult opponents in the group?
I highly rate the chances of Italy and Kazakhstan in the upcoming fight as we have observed those teams already for four seasons, and we know their potential well. I would call them our main rivals in the upcoming season.
And if you had to say the same about group A?
I think that our group will be a little bit stronger than group A, in which I clearly see two leaders – Cuba and Russia. With regard to the Ukraine Otamans, we will see how the team will present themselves in the season.
It also needs to be considered, that every team will have different goals in the season, but all will strive to win the qualification places for the Olympics.
What goals do you put before the Astana Arlans in Season 5?
The goal of the championship always remains an actuality, and the upcoming season is no exception. What with regard to licenses we understand that it is impossible to get all the available licenses and therefore we give ourselves a completely realistic minimum goal – to take at least three licenses following the performance in the group stage of the competition. I’m sure that our guys will realize this goal.
And when will the team start preparation for the season?
In October we plan to finally determine the team composition and the guys will start active preparation. It is linked to the Azerbaijan Boxing Championships which will take place at the end of September. Obviously, all our boxers will compete there. According to the results of the National Championships there will be the usual decision of how to distribute the boxers the day before the qualifying events for the Olympics: who will be in the National Team and who will be in the WSB team.
The new season will be the fifth of the competition in which we can observe the strongest rivalry of today between the neighbors – Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. How would you rate the development of your relationship with the Astana Arlans in the ring?
For the four years, apart from the rivalry in the ring, we found a strong friendship of our teams, about which I am very glad. We always advise, support each other and help when we can in the organization of our matches. I must say that the Kazakhstan team is very well-organized. The tasks in the organization of the work process are very well placed.. Everyone has their own responsibility, and they carry them out. With every year their guys strive for a world position in boxing, and for us it is a huge honor to have such strong opponents. As I have already said, it is with the Arlans we will struggle for the leading position in the next season. With regard to statistics, at home our team always feels confident, and therefore the result of our meetings with Astana Arlans is yet positive – 6 wins and 2 defeats. We will try to keep this record in the future.
Thank you for the chat and good luck to Baku Fires in the fifth season!