Two of the greatest boxing nations in the world created Magic in Moscow, with five engrossing fights completing the first leg of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Season IV semi-finals.
Russian Boxing Team were at home at the Moscow Arena, against the highly rated Cuban Domadores, and two teams provided a bounty of beautiful fights.
The night opened at Light Flyweight (46-49kg) with Cuban Yosbany Veitia, ranked Number one in the WSB competed against against the Russian Belik Galanov.
Veitia boxed flamboyantly, utilising a fast and speedy style against his Russian opponent. Galanov tried hard, but the Cuban was simply too slick.
The commentators were slightly critical of The Cuban taking liberties with his opponent, but his method was eventually sound, as he kept his undefeated record in the competition, with seven straight wins this season.
Contest number two was at Bantamweight (56kg), as Vladimir Nikitin, ranked number two in his division took on the Cuban Norlan Yera, who will be making his WSB debut against Nikitin.
Despite Nikitin having won all three of his previous WSB contests, he was made to work hard by the debutant. Both boxers experienced nasty cuts above their left eye, but the wounds did not make the bout any less engrossing.
Nikitin ultimately prevailed, making it 1-1 on the night, but Yera was highly impressive on debut.
The third fight was also highly entertaining, as the number one ranked Light-Welterweight Yasnier Toledo put his 4-1 record on the line against the 1-1 Russian Maxim Dadashev, the 2008 AIBA Youth World Championship silver medalist.
Toledo is one of the most graceful boxers to watch in WSB, his technique is unrivaled, and he excelled in the contest against the very tough and game Dadashev, who to his credit never gave up on the contest. Toledo’s victory put Cuba 2-1 up after three fights.
That all changed in the fourth contest, which saw Artem Chebotarev up against the relatively unknown Cuban Arlen Lopez.
Chebotarev’s right hand was a constant weapon, hitting it over the top seemingly at will. Lopez showed his inexperience at times, but was competitive in the contest.
The Russian controlled the bout from the outset, and looked more powerful at all times than his Cuban rival who looked more and more ragged as the fight progressed.
Perhaps the best round of the entire night was the fifth and last one in this fight. Lopez exploded in the first minute, with a devastating one-two combination, shaking his Russian opponent.
The last seconds of the fight saw both boxers exchanging furious uppercuts. Despite the late rally by Lopez, the win went to Chebotarev, evening up the scores 2-2, and ensuring that the last fight would decide the night.
What a fight it was, as the number one ranked Heavyweight (91kg) Erislandy Savon put his 5-0 WSB season record against his fellow undefeated opponent, the home favourite Eugeniy Tischenko.
Ice cool Savon won the contest, and belied the pressure of the situation with crisp punches delivered with panache. Tischenko fought gamely, but couldn’t sustain any real pressure, and his Cuban opponent won by unanimous decision.
His win meant that Cuba won the first leg of the semi-finals by a 3-2 margin, and take that advantage back home on May 2. The winner of this semi-final will qualify for the WSB Finals (May 30-31) and face the winner of the other semi-final contested by defending Champions, the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan and the Azerbaijan Baku Fires.