Can the luck of the Irish help Italia Thunder defeat Azerbaijan Baku Fires?

One of the best things about the World Series of Boxing (WSB) is that you can have dream matches from the very beginning of the season, and this year is no different as Season IV runners-up Azerbaijan Baku Fires begin their campaign against Season II winners Italia Thunder.

Azerbaijan will enjoy home advantage at the Guba Olympic Complex on Saturday 17th January, and fans across the world can watch the action free, live and on demand 19:00 (GMT +4) at

The first fight of the evening is an absolute cracker at Light flyweight (49 kg) between Azerbaijan’s Magomed Ibiyev and Northern Ireland’s two-time Olympic bronze medalist Paddy Barnes, who made his debut for the Italian Franchise last season.

Barnes is one of the most decorated boxers from his country, but will have to be at his best to defeat the speedy Ibiyev who will look to improve on his 1-2 WSB record from last season

Another Azeri/Irish battle takes place in match two at Bantamweight (56 kg) between  Magomed Gurbanov who won his last WSB match in the Season IV finals, against Michael Conlan, who has a bronze Olympic medal, a silver European medal, plus gold from 2014’s Commonwealth Games.

Gurbanov has the WSB experience, and it will be interesting to see how Conlon reacts to the longer format.

Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev twice defeated Cuba’s superstar Yasnier Toledo in Season IV, and one of the Baku Fires stars begins his Light welterweight (64 kg) campaign against Italy’s Olympic and AIBA World Championships bronze medalist Vincenzo Mangiacapre.

This could be the best match of the evening, with Mangiacapre boasting a 6-1 WSB record, and Gadzhialiyev enjoying a 5-1 Season IV.

Belarus Middleweight (75 kg) Mikalai Vesialou represents Azerbaijan Baku Fires, and has seven WSB wins.

He will need to cling onto all of that experience to defeat Italy’s Salvatore Cavallaro who is making a name for himself as a fan-friendly boxer.

In the last fight in Guba, one of the longest serving boxers in WSB history makes an appearance, as Heavyweight (91 kg) Abdulkadir Abdullayev, who has competed in every single season, faces Italy’s Fabio Turchi.

Abdullayev has amassed a 9-4 record during his WSB career, and the Azeri athlete was part of the biggest shock in the history of the competition last season, when he sensationally knocked out Italian icon Clemente Russo in the quarter-finals.

Fabio Turchi, who won a bronze medal aged just 16 at the 2010 AIBA Youth World Championships has a daunting task to defeat Abdullayev, but he will be full of confidence that he can inflict defeat on the man who stopped his compatriot last year.