London’s York Hall was the setting for the opening Season VI Quarter-Final between British Lionhearts and Ukraine Otamans, and it was the home side who took the advantage with a 4-1 lead going in to Friday’s second leg.
In the opening bout of the evening, Britain’s Harvey Horn faced the Otamans’ Denys Kozaruk at light flyweight, and with the crowd firmly behind the home boxer, Horn began firmly on the front foot, taking the bout to his opponent from the outset. That confidence lasted the whole bout, and with Kozaruk unable to get close enough to register any serious attacks, Horn took the opening bout to give the Lionhearts the early advantage.
Bantamweights Peter McGrail and Vladyslav Vyetoshkin were second in the ring, and with the Ukrainian on his WSB debut, Britain’s 19-year-old English southpaw exploited his inexperience. McGrail dictated the tempo of the bout, attacking from a solid defensive base that left Vyetoshkin unable to compile any meaningful combinations, and the Lionhearts looked comfortable at 2-0 up.
The third bout of the night saw Brit Samuel Maxwell take on the Otomoans’ most experienced boxer, Volodymyr Matviichuk, and the key light welterweight match lived up to the billing. Maxwell’s jabs were finding their target early on, but Matviichuk was able to get closer in and turned things around in the fourth with some great footwork. Britain’s young star held enough in reserve to steel himself in the final round, however, with his stamina seeing him through a tricky tie and guaranteeing his team the win on the night.
British Lionhearts’ German middleweight class Denis Radovan delighted the home crowd with his brilliant opening two rounds, but Valerii Kharlamov had enough physical skills and mental toughness to come back into the bout and deliver a strong final round that earned his team’s first point of the night. The crowd found their voice once more, however, after an explosive start to the final match of the first leg as Lionhearts’ Croatian heavyweight Josip Bepo Filipi and Otamans’ Viktor Trush flew out of their corners. Some thrilling exchanges made for a gripping encounter, but it was Filipi who landed the most significant blows and won by unanimous decision, making it 4-1 to the home side on the night.
The two teams return to the ring on Friday night, with the Lionhearts needing just two wins to guarantee a place in the Semi-Finals. Frazer Clarke will be hoping to impress once more as he tackles Ukrainian Vladyslav Sirenko, while the Otamans’ task of overcoming the first-leg deficit and progressing to the last four is a tall one.