Ten incredible bouts of boxing lit up Tashkent on Saturday night as the WSB Season VI final between Cuba Domadores and British Lionhearts landed in Uzbekistan. Imperious throughout their third campaign in the competition, the Domadores were crowned champions for the second time in three years as they delivered a near-flawless display against a British Lionhearts side that battled bravely in their first taste of WSB final action, but could not out-box a star-studded Cuban team.
The opening contest was always going to be crucial as both sides wanted to start well, and light flyweights Johanys Argilagos and Galal Yafai put on a blockbuster show for the packed crowd. Argilagos started brightest, repeatedly finding the target with some big lefts before Yafai warmed to his task, becoming more aggressive and working his way back into the bout. The Cuban tired and twice went to the floor in the fifth, but had already done enough to earn his team a vital 1-0 lead.
Cuba’s 22 year-old Olympic champion Robeisy Ramirez was once again brilliant to watch against Britain’s Peter McGrail, who himself had been in sparkling form in the Semi-Final against Astana Arlans Kazakhstan. McGrail fought valiantly to escape the Ramirez onslaught, but a heavy combination late in the third round saw the Liverpudlian go down, leaving his corner with little choice but throw in the towel.
There was then a brilliantly nerveless display from Lionhearts’ light welterweight WSB debutant Dalton Smith, who announced his arrival in the British team boxing like a man with nothing to lose against Yasnier Toledo. After forcing his way into contention with some big left hooks, Smith was then on the back foot as Toledo went back to basics, found his rhythm and built up a commanding lead from where he never looked back.
Cuban middleweight Arlen Lopez then showed the class that saw him crowned 2015 World Champion, stalking Troy Williamson around the ring and stifling his opponent’s every effort. A big right from Williamson simply saw his opponent step on the gas, and a heavy combination rocked the Lionhearts man midway through the third, and again the team were left to throw in the towel.
At 4-0 down, Lawrence Okolie appeared understandably tight against the imposing figure of Erislandy Savon, and a big left after just ten seconds saw the tie out of Okolie’s reach. Another heavy uppercut at the end of the first round saw the referee stop the bout and at the halfway stage the Cubans looked unstoppable.
With no fewer than 18 WSB wins already under his belt, Cuban 24 year-old Yosbany Veitia was always going to be a stern test of British flyweight Muhammed Ali’s abilities, but the taller Lionheart refused to be overaught. As Veitia tired, Ali came back strongly and found more success from distance to take the fourth and fifth rounds, but Veitia had already done enough to earn a split decision and at 6-0 the Cubans knew the title was theirs.
A unanimous points win for the Domadores in the seventh bout again didn’t tell the full story of a resolute performance from Luke McCormack against triple World Champion Lazaro Alvarez. McCormack threw everything at his opponent, but Alvarez wore him down with short, accurate shots to earn the judges’ decision.
Olympic champion Roniel Iglesias then delivered a masterclass against Lionhearts’ Ekow Essuman to make it 8-0 on the night. It was the second time the two had met in WSB competition, but Iglesias went one better than his Season V points win, stunning Essuman to earn a resounding TKO less than a minute into the second round.
Cuban captain Julio Cesar La Cruz showed just why many people consider him to be the world’s best boxer with a virtuoso display against the brave Tom Hart. La Cruz was in the kind of mood where he could have beaten anybody in the ring, his jab proving indefensible as he won in a resounding manner that befitted a momentous day that also saw the sad passing of the great Muhammed Ali.
At 9-0 down, British super heavyweight Frazer Clarke was determined to salvage a point for the Lionhearts, and he did so in style with a brilliant display against Leinier Pero. The bout had swung both ways before Clarke stepped up a gear in the fourth round and, with Pero on the ropes, won by TKO with some hard body blows that gave the British Lionhearts a well-deserved and hard-earned first point.