Astana Arlans Kazakhstan have once again shown why they are the most successful team in the history of WSB, bouncing back from a Week 6 away defeat at Uzbek Tigers to top Group D and set up a home quarter-final against Venezuela Caciques on Friday and Saturday in Shymkent. Astana Arlans have never failed to reach the semi-final stages, but they face a rejuvenated Venezuelan team that has achieved a successful balance of youth and experience so far this campaign, and here are two battles that could tip the tie either way:
64 kg – Samat Bashenov (KAZ) vs. Luis Arcon (VEN)
Kazakhstan team captain and two-time Team Champion Samat Bashenov’s WSB career reaches back to Season II, with the light welterweight compiling an enviable 14-5 record over the six campaigns to date. The 28-year-old makes a welcome return to the team following an injury, and will be hoping to lead the Arlans to his fifth consecutive semi-final.
Bashenov’s opponent in Shymkent will be Luis Arcon, himself a seasoned WSB campaigner who ensured his qualification for Rio 2016 at last month’s AIBA Olympic Qualification Event. Arcon boasts a solid 5-4 record in the competition and as he lands in Kazakhstan in great shape, a win over the Arlans’ team captain would be his biggest to date.
52 kg – Azamat Issakulov (KAZ) vs. Yoel Finol (VEN)
Kazakh Azamat Issakulov steps into the Arlans team at flyweight in place of Olzhas Sattibayev for the Quarter-Final match-up. With just one WSB contest under his belt, a Season V win over Argentina Condors’ Ricardo Ibarra, Issakulov will be hoping to emulate the form that saw him take the 2015 Feliks Stamm Memorial title.
Venezuela’s reigning American Confederation Champion Yoel Finol will be confident of his chances despite a surprise defeat against Argentina Condors’ Cristian Roda in Buenos Aires back in Week 3. The 19-year-old won three contests during Season V and has a 4-3 overall record in WSB, offering some stiff opposition to the home favourite Issakulov.