Two-time WSB Team Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan were in typically ruthless form on Friday night in Shymkent as they took the first leg of their Quarter-Final with Venezuela Caciques 4-1. Just two points from Saturday night’s second leg will now be enough to see the home side through to face British Lionhearts for a place in the Season VI final.
The hosts’ new light flyweight sensation Yerzhan Zhomart patiently explored Caciques’ Angelino Cordova’s weak points in the first round of the opening bout and, as the tie drew on, Cordova was left taking increasingly large risks, which Zhomart exploited in the third leaving the referee to count out the defeated Venezuelan.
Nurbol Kalzhanov had a difficult opponent in Caciques’ strong Hector Luis Garcia, and it proved a gripping bantamweight bout as Garcia tried to control the distance and rely on his longer reach. Kalzhanov had a powerful weapon in the form of his right hook, however, and after knocking the Dominican down in the third, the judges’ decision never looked in any doubt.
With the Quarter-Final sewn up, a brilliant encounter then unfolded between the hosts’ experienced team captain Samat Bashenov and Rio 2016 qualifier Luis Arcon. Bashenov unleashed some powerful combinations in the second round but Arcon responded well, landing some dangerous blows of his own. With the crowd fired up, the Arlans legend stepped on the gas once again, landing a wonderful left-handed uppercut during an in-fighting exchange in the fourth round and eventually taking the exhausting contest by split decision.
Arlans’ emerging middleweight talent Abilkhan Amankul had a tough opening against Rio Test Event winner Johan Gonzalez, but showed exactly why he has a bright boxing future as he turned on the style to make it 4-0 to the hosts on the night. The Caciques’ Colombian heavyweight veteran Deivis Julio then got the visitors’ first point on the board with a determined display against Yerkin Mukhametzhan, giving them a glimmer of hope going in to the second leg on Saturday night.
The Caciques will be able to count on AMBC American Confederation Champion 19-year-old Yoel Finol in Saturday’s opening bout, but he will need to be sharp if he is to stop Kazakhstan’s new National Flyweight Champion Azamat Issakulov and give his side a chance of victory. Astana Arlans’ Zakir Safiullin (60kg) and Venezuela Caciques’ Gabriel Maestre (69kg) could also provide the key to their respective teams’ Quarter-Final fortunes.