Defending Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan take on title rivals the Cuba Domadores in the most highly anticipated match of the year so far in Season IV of the World Series of Boxing (WSB).
The Cubans created quite a stir when they joined the World Series of Boxing. Now, three wins and 15 unbeaten bouts later, the question is can anyone stop the Cuban locomotive? Kazakhstan, currently the leading boxing nation in the world, will be hoping to do just that.
Elsewhere we have a crunch match at the bottom of the table as the Mexico Guerreros and Hussars Poland are both feeling the pressure to get their seasons underway. Meanwhile, the WSB bad boys, the Azerbaijan Baku Fires, have a key match away to the dangerous Russian team.
Astana Arlans Kazakhstan vs. Cuba Domadores
Given the importance of the match it is interesting that the tactical wizard that is Sergiy Korchynsky, the Arlans’ Head Coach, has decided to start two boxers with no previous WSB experience: Lightweight (60kg) ZhandosMomunov and Welterweight (69kg) Bakhytzan Kozhabekov. The Arlans will however also be fielding two of their remaining “Legionnaires”, the amazing group of international fighters that helped them win Season III, in the guise of Light Heavyweight (81kg) Hrvoje Sep (13-5) and Super Heavyweight (91+kg)Filip Hrgovic (16-3).
With the Kazakhstan national team’s rise to dominance on the world stage, the need for international athletes in the Arlans team has been reduced this year. It speaks volumes therefore that these two Croatians have kept their places in the squad. Sep will be stepping out against Julio Cesar La Cruz, the 2011 World Champion, whilst Hrgovic takes on 2009 world bronze medallist Jose Larduet, who makes his first appearance in the WSB.
Elsewhere Arisnoidys Despaigne, the current world silver medallist, will be back in action at Welterweight for the Domadores, making Korchynsky’s decision to start a debutant boxer against him an intriguing one. Another interesting matchup will be the Flyweight bout between the up and coming Kazakh boxer Miras Zhakupov and Cuban Gerardo Cervantes. Zhakupov comes into the bout with a 4-1 record and has wins over the likes of Ukraine Otamans star Mykola Butsenko to brag of. Cervantes however may well be in another league again to anyone he has boxed before, so this will be an intriguing bout. The real question is can the Cubans carry their unbeaten run through the most difficult away fixture in the WSB? Or will the Champions derail the Cuban party wagon?
Russian Boxing Team vs. Azerbaijan Baku Fires
The Fires are, somewhat surprisingly, handing debuts to three boxers in this match including Welterweight Yauheni Ramashkevich and BelarussianMikhail Dauhaliavets at Light Heavyweight. The toughest start of all is handed to Rauf Agayev who lands the Russian World Champion Misha Aloian at Flyweight. Aloian is currently unbeaten in the WSB, though he has been used sparingly and has only amassed a 2-0 record over the last two seasons so far. Nonetheless the Russian is perhaps the hardest hitting Flyweight in the world at the moment and quite a formidable prospect for anyone to face, let alone a man making his debut. The Fires have brought experience however in the form of Super Heavyweight Haji Murtuzaliyev who has a 5-4 record, but who was unbeaten last season where he won two of his three bouts by TKO. At 25 years old he may now be coming into his own. He will be taking on Russian prospect Sergey Kuzmin who looked good in his WSB debut, but was unlucky to draw the Astana Arlans veteran Filip Hrgovic. Kuzmin will be hoping that this bout represents a fairer crack of the whip for him.
Elsewhere keep an eye out for Russian debutant Alexander Besputin who was very impressive at the recent AIBA World Boxing Championships, Almaty 2013 where he made it to the quarter finals.
Mexico Guerreros vs Hussars Poland
It has been a bad start to the season for both of these two teams. The Hussars were quarterfinalists last year and the Guerreros reached the semi-finals where they were finally unpicked by the Champions, Astana Arlans Kazakhstan. Yet this year in the “Group of Death” they have only managed to win one bout between them. That says more about the quality of the opposition than it does about the ability of these teams however, and one of them will now get the chance to capitalise on the other’s misfortune.
The Mexicans are taking the match extremely seriously and are unleashing what looks to be as close to a perfect first team as we have seen them select so far, with their captain, WSB boxer of the year 2013, Elias Emigdio leading the team out at Flyweight. A three season veteran with a 14-3 record, the Guerreros desperately need Emigdio to give them first blood on Saturday night over Polish debutant Mariusz Koch. Koch is just 19 years old, yet often what fighters lack in experience at that age they make up for in self-belief and energy, a combination which can make them difficult adversaries at times.
Lindolfo Delgado is a new Guerreros fighter who looked fairly handy at the recent World Boxing Championships, and he will need to stay sharp againstDawid Michelus at Lightweight. The Pole comes in with a 2-2 record, but that includes a win over World silver medallist Mohamed Flissi of the Desert Hawks, making him extremely dangerous when on form. Risky though it is to say in advance, he represents Poland’s best chance of a win, and if he were to achieve one, it could come early enough in the bout to have a psychological impact on the rest of his team. But we can expect Mexico to battle back hard through Marvin Cabrera at Welterweight. He was ranked number one last year in the old Middleweight category and was unbeaten through the whole season to amass a 6-1 record. His team have missed him so far this year, and his return could not be better timed.