Azerbaijan will look to secure top spot when Russia comes to town


After a barnstorming start to the season, with seven wins from as many outings in the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Group A, Azerbaijan Baku Fires will seek to ensure they finish the regular season top of the table with victory over Russia at the Olympic Sports Center ‘Serhedchi’ this Saturday 9 February (19:00 local time). With 2012 London Olympian Elvin Mamishzada, undefeated Belarusian Mikalai Vesialou and hard-hitting Haji Murtuzaliyev in the Azeri ranks, expect the home team to be able to maintain their perfect record.

After claiming silver at the European Championships in 2010, a lot has been expected of pocket dynamo Mamishzada with the 21-year-old having impressed in reaching the 2011 AIBA World Championships quarter-finals and subsequently qualifying for the Olympic Games last summer. The Azeri orthodox fighter will now be gunning for victory on his WSB debut but will have to box clever when he faces 29-year-oldVyacheslav Tashkarakov at Bantamweight (50-54kg), with the Russian a very dangerous opponent.

Two competition newcomers will then go head-to-head in the battle of the Lightweight (57-61kg) southpaws with Azerbaijan’s 21-year-oldMagomedali Ukayev locking horns with uncompromising Russian Eduard Khusanov. The production line of talent in these two countries continues to astound most people so with bragging rights on the line, expect these two to give their all in the ring in order to claim a maiden win.

With an impressive 4-0 record in the competition, Vesialou goes into his Middleweight (68-73kg) contest with Russia’s Sergei Sitnikov as favourite. The 26-year-old Belarusian is a no-frills boxer who does not leave anything to chance, precise with his punches and watertight with his defences. His rival on the other hand announced himself to WSB in week one with a well-taken TKO victory. It will be a clash of styles but surely one to savour.

The Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) bout will then see Azerbaijan’s tough Georgian Iago Kiziria pitted against Russian National Champion Dmitriy Bivol. The 21-year-old Kiziria took a while to get going on his debut last month but once he found his range, he was almost unstoppable as a flurry of punishing body shots saw his win by TKO in round four. Bivol is an extremely promising boxer and will be keen to impress his new employers first time out, so it should be tight.

It will be a real clash of Heavyweights (+91kg) when Murtuzaliyev and giant Russian southpaw Sergey Kalchugin collide in the ring for the ultimate contest of the match. Both know the competition well, having faced some of WSB’s most fearsome fighters, and they are each undefeated this campaign. The 25-year-old Azeri has two TKOs to his name already this season so is the man in form. The Russian having been completely dominant against Bouloudinats in week one, will be confident of causing an upset.

Russia need points after an underwhelming start to their season but defeating Azerbaijan Baku Fires on their home turf has not be done since season one so it will be a tough ask, though with the pedigree of boxers in each camp, it will be close, that is for sure.