After an exciting, unpredictable eleven weeks of gripping Group Stage action in WSB Season VI, the two top franchises from each of the four groups find themselves through to this weekend’s quarter-finals.
The first-placed side earned the right to host the play-off matches, with ten contests across Thursday and Friday nights in Havana as Cuba Domadores host Mexico Guerreros and in London where British Lionhearts welcome Ukraine Otamans. On Friday and Saturday nights, the Russian Boxing Team meets Uzbek Tigers in Ulyanovsk and Venezuela Caciques travel to Shymkent to face Astana Arlans Kazakhstan.
Cuba Domadores vs. Mexico Guerreros (21-22 April)
The Cuba Domadores brilliantly took the Season IV title during their first WSB campaign, and after reaching the finals again last time and securing no fewer than five 5-0 whitewashes already this season, they will be again confident of overcoming Mexico Guerreros in Havana.
Their 3-2 defeat to Ukraine Otamans in Week 7 proves that the Domadores’ rich blend of experienced stars like Arlen Lopez, Julio Cesar La Cruz and Robeisy Ramirez is beatable, however, while the Guerreros will be looking to make it three semi-finals in six seasons.
The visitors finished the Group stage with renewed swagger and a 4-1 win over British Lionhearts to qualify ahead of USA Knockouts, and they will need every ounce of that confidence against a team that has only lost one time. Francisco Armenta is unbeaten this season at welterweight, while Lindolfo Delgado, Raul Curiel, Sergio Chirino, Carlos Rodriguez and Jose Rojas have all showed their potential during the Group Stage.
British Lionhearts vs. Ukraine Otamans (21-22 April)
The British Lionhearts joined the World Series of Boxing in Season III when the franchise lost out in the quarter-finals, but a period of rebuilding has seen this young team grab some memorable wins and essential experience in Season VI, earning the Team of the Regular Season accolade in the process.
Early away wins in Miami and Casablanca put the British outfit on the right track, with the likes of Joshua Buatsi, Lawrence Okolie and Boxer of the Regular Season Pat McCormack all in fine form.
Ukraine Otamans finished runners up in their debut season, only losing out to Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in a dramatic finale, but have been through a similar period of flux as their quarter-final opponents, using Season V to give experience to a young squad and reaping the benefits in the current campaign, including a brilliant Week 7 home win over Cuba Domadores.
The Lionhearts will be looking to secure their first win over the Otamans in WSB competition at London’s York Hall on Thursday and Friday nights. Across the four encounters in Seasons III and V, the Otamans hold a 14-6 advantage, but the hosts will have never had such a good chance as this year.
Russian Boxing Team vs. Uzbek Tigers (22-23 April)
Involved in WSB since the very first season, the Russian Boxing Team has a strong track-record in the competition, finishing runners-up to Italia Thunder in Season II and reaching the semi-finals in Season V. Three away wins in a row at the start of the current campaign set them up for the only 100% record of the Group Stage, with Bator Sagaluev and Albert Karibian topping the individual rankings.
The Uzbek Tigers have made a real impact in their first WSB season, however, and after four wins out of six they will be sure to provide a huge test for their rivals. With Hasanboy Dusmatov, Abdulkhay Sharakhmatov, Elnur Abduraimov and Fazliddin Meliboev all producing big Group C performances, the Tigers were only pushed into second place by Astana Arlans in Week 11, and while the Russians will have certainly done their homework, their quarter-final opponents will be looking to cause a few surprises and continue a superb debut-season run to the semis.
Astana Arlans Kazakhstan vs. Venezuela Caciques (22-23 April)
Astana Arlans Kazakhstan joined the World Series of Boxing in the first season, and are the only franchise to win titles, in Seasons III and V. After an unforgettable final against Cuba Domadores last time around, the team will know exactly how to deal with the play-off pressure as they welcome the Venezuela Caciques.
The Arlans stuttered in their first away match losing 4-1 in Uzbekistan, but bounced back to top a difficult Group D thanks to Athlete of Week 11 Aslanbek Shymbergenov and big-match performances from Olzhas Sattibayev and Meirim Nursultanov.
Venezuela Caciques were one of the four new teams joining in Season V and proved something of a surprise package by winning eight out of fourteen preliminary matches. Another strong group stage this time out saw them push the Russians close and register important wins over Rafako Hussars Poland and Argentina Condors, enough to advance to the quarter-finals for the first time.
The Caciques’ Hungarian draft pick Imre Bacskai was named WSB Boxer of Week 7, and young talents such as Nalek Korbaj and Christian Palacio have also provided the team with plenty of backbone so far in Season VI, and they will have to produce something magical in Shymkent if they are to overcome the current Team Champions.