Astana Arlans Kazakhstan kick off WSB title defence against Azerbaijan Baku Fires in Karagandy

Saturday night sees last season’s World Series of Boxing champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan begin their journey towards what would be an unprecedented title defence with a tough home tie against Azerbaijan Baku Fires. The two giants of WSB will go toe-to-toe in the Kazakh city of Karagandy in the first match of Group D.

The Arlans are again the team to beat after finishing Season V undefeated, but Baku Fires won’t shy away from the challenge following a strong campaign of their own that included ten wins in fourteen Group B matches.

Kazakhstan’s light flyweight star Temirtas Zhussupov was peerless last season, and the 2013 ASBC gold medallist will have the crowd behind him for the evening’s opening bout against Baku Fires’ upcoming 20 year-old talent Javid Dadashov. The Azeri put himself on the map last year defeating EUBC Champion Salman Alizada at the Great Silk Way Tournament in Baku, and will need to be at his very best once again to overcome Zhussupov.

Arlans’ bantamweight Meirbolat Toitov, heavily involved in both the home side’s championship-winning seasons, meets Iarash Magomedov, while Askhat Ualikhanov will have an added incentive to overcome Azerbaijan’s London 2012 Olympian Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev following his defeat at his hands in Season V.

Kazakhstan National Champion Meirim Nursultanov faces Baku Fires’ Georgian boxer Badri Khardzhiani in the evening’s middleweight contest, before the super heavyweights take to the ring to round off the match. The home side won’t be able to count on the talismanic Vassiliy Levit, with last season’s hero replaced by 21 year-old WSB debutant Yerkin Mukhametzhan. The youngster will need to keep his cool against Baku Fires’ Russian-descent southpaw Haji Murtazaliyev in what could be the deciding bout of the match.