Azerbaijan take top spot after defeat of Russia (4-1)


Azerbaijan Baku Fires made it eight wins from eight to ensure they would finish the regular season top of World Series of Boxing (WSB) Group A after overcoming the challenge of Russia at the Olympic Sports Center ‘Serhedchi’. Elvin Mamishzada’s successful competitive WSB debut and wins for Belarusian sensation Mikalai Vesialou and hard-hitting Haji Murtuzaliyev making sure of maximum points.

In the opening contest of the night, Azerbaijan’s 21-year-old 2012 London Olympian Mamishzada faced Vyacheslav Tashkarakov in a real clash of styles at Bantamweight (50-54kg), with the European Championships silver medallist having to box clever on the counter with the Russian constantly looking to move on the inside. The Azeri orthodox fighter’s movement and shot selection saw him connect with the cleaner shots throughout the five rounds as he marked his maiden WSB appearance with a win to give his team the lead in the tie.

It was very close in the battle of the Lightweight (57-61kg) southpaws between Azerbaijan’s 21-year-old Magomedali Ukayev and uncompromising Russian Eduard Khusanov. The away boxer had the longer reach and more power, as he used his jab effectively to claim the opening two rounds. Ukayev worked hard to move on the inside and work the body of his rival with his good defences allowing him to soak up the pressure before unloading some good punches as he clawed his way back into the fight to go into the final frame almost on level terms. The fifth round tested these two WSB newcomers’ fitness levels as the two went toe-toe in the centre of the ring, trading a high volume of punches. You could not fault the work rate of these two, but in the end Khusanov had done enough to win by split decision.

Impressive undefeated Belarusian Vesialou looked comfortable in the opening two rounds of his Middleweight (68-73kg) bout versus Russia’s Sergei Sitnikov with the 26-year-old Fires’ southpaw using his height advantage to good effect with that long jab allowing him to box at distance. Calm and composed, Vesialou was economical with his punches, but when he saw that opening, he unleashed some quality combinations to really stamp his authority on proceedings, taking the third round with relative ease. The Belarusian’s watertight defences allowed him to counter whenever Sitnikov tried to attack in the end it was comfortable for Vesialou as he extended his record in the competition to 5-0.

It was a scrappy affair at Heavyweight (+91kg) with Murtuzaliyev drawing giant Russian southpaw Sergey Kalchugin to fight at close quarters. The tactic worked in the first round with the 25-year-old getting the better of the exchanges. The Russian though came back to take the second and from then on the two took turns in being the aggressor. Murtuzaliyev’s poise though made the difference as he claimed the final two rounds with some good work to the body to ensure his third win of the season.

With the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) bout declared a walk-over, Azerbaijan Baku Fires maintained their 100% record this season to guarantee themselves top spot in the group. They will now be eagerly watching to see which team finishes fourth in Group B in order to best prepare for the quarter-finals.

Russia now travel to Algeria to face the Desert Hawks at the Salle Harcha Hassan on Friday 15 February whilst Azerbaijan’s next fixture is away to Mexico Guerreros a week later.