Making a first appearance at the Almaty Sports Palace, Astana Arlans Kazakhstan were inspired as they completely dominated a visiting British Lionhearts side lining-up four WSB debutants. Zhakupov, Mussafirov, Snigur, Karlson and Hrgovic all recorded victories in this Group B clash to send Kazakhstan top of table.
It was fast and furious in the early exchanges of the Bantamweight (50-54kg) contest between Kazakhstan’s Miras Zhakupov and Gamal Yafai of the British Lionhearts. The home boxer used his range to good effect to edge the first three rounds whilst Yafai continued to look to land those thunderous hooks. Using his jab and quick one-two combinations, Zhakupov looked solid and the more the fight wore on, the more Yafai came charging forward to leave himself exposed to the counter-punch. In the end, the Kazak 23-year-old orthodox’s measured approach saw him claim all five rounds to give Kazakhstan the lead in the match.
An intriguing bout ensued at Lightweight (57-61kg) with the hosts’ Yerzhan Mussafirov facing tall Scottish southpaw Josh Taylor. The Kazak, one of the outstanding boxers of season one, began well, applying constant pressure on his opponent, keeping him close to the ropes and working the body from the inside. The theme continued in rounds three and four as Taylor struggled to get to grips with the unrelenting 27-year-old. The Lionhearts’ WSB debutant battled valiantly but in the end Mussafirov endeavour put the Arlans 2-0 up on the night.
At Middleweight (68-73kg), it was Kazakhstan’s Israeli hardman Konstantin Snigur versus Aston Brown. The 21-year-old Brit’s began well but his over-confidence counted against him in the early stages as his orthodox opponent came back strong to claim the second and third rounds with some excellent shot-making. Snigur was moving well and throwing some piercing shots, connecting well with his intended target. Brown was standing strong and was putting up a great fight but it was the home boxer’s precision which made the difference as Snigur triumphed.
It was pretty evenly matched in the first two rounds of the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) showdown with both Ainar Karlon of the Kazak team and 31-year-old Swede Babacar Kamara connecting with some solid shots. After edging the first two rounds, Karlson began switching stance in the third to try and unsettle the powerful Lionhearts orthodox fighter but it served only to motivate Kamara who mixed it up well to claim the round. The tall Arlans 24-year-old changed tactic again and this time kept his distance to good effect as he closed out the fight to claim his maiden WSB victory.
2012 WSB Heavyweight (91+kg) Champion Filip Hrgovic and London Olympian Mohamed Arjaoui from Morocco then went head-to-head in an explosive bout. The Lionhearts’ Arjaoui worked tirelessly to try and come inside but was thwarted time and time again as the Croatian expertly used his jab to keep his opponent at range. Good footwork from Hrgovic meant he stayed out of trouble and expertly dealt with anything his rival threw at him. Kazakhstan’s summer recruit stylishly did the business, winning all five rounds to give his team a resounding win in the match.
It was in the end a scintillating performance by Astana Arlans Kazakhstan as their experienced campaigners delivered against an untested Lionhearts line-up. The Kazak team next host reigning champions Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder on Friday 14 December at this same venue whilst the Brits host the German Eagles at Earl’s Court in London that same night.