After Caciques Venezuela defeated Rafako Hussars Poland on Friday night, Italia Thunder knew that they needed to beat Astana Arlans Kazakhstan to move into the last qualification spot in Group B of the World Series of Boxing (WSB).
It was a difficult proposition to imagine however, as Kazakhstan had won all 13 of their matches in Season V of the competition.
Additionally, the fixture carried huge significance for some of the competitors in action, as it was their last chance to earn a qualification quota for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games through WSB.
After five gruelling fights, Italy secured a priceless victory 3-2 over Kazakhstan to reach the knockout stages where they will meet Russian Boxing Team.
The most important bout of the evening from an individual level was at Light heavyweight (81 kg), where 7-0 home star Valentino Manfredonia and 6-1 Hrvoje Sep competed against each other knowing that whoever won would earn a Rio 2016 quota, while the loser would miss out.
It was a tremendously entertaining fight with plenty of exciting action from both competitors.
Manfredonia took control in the first three rounds as he displayed the skilful style that had resulted in so much success this season, while the resolute Sep improved as the fight progressed.
Despite the late surge from Sep, all three of the judges awarded Manfredonia the decision, which saw him finish the group stages top of the Light heavyweight rankings, and with a valuable Rio 2016 quota.
The win also secured Italy’s overall victory on the night, which made the night even more memorable for Manfredonia.
Another fighter who earned an Olympic quota was Astana Arlans Super heavyweight (91+ kg) Filip Hrgovic, who took his season record to 7-0 after stopping reigning Italian Champion Alessio Spahiu in round two of their bout.
This was Hrgovic’s fifth TKO win of the campaign, and the Croatian is perhaps the most powerful puncher in all of WSB.
Only one Rio 2016 quota was available from the Super heavyweight division, which makes Hrgovic one of the best in the world at his weight class.
Italy opened the evening with victory at Flyweight (52 kg) when India’s Gaurav Bidhuri edged a split decision win over Kazakhstan’s 1-1 Miras Zhakupov.
Although one judge had Zhakupov winning all five rounds, the other two scored the contest in favour of Bidhuri by a single point.
2-1 Italian Donato Cosenza then scored a victory over Roman Chshegrinov at Lightweight (60 kg), as his excellent start to the fight impressed the judges.
Kazakhstan’s second success of the night was secured by Welterweight (69 kg) Aslanbek Shymbergenov who outpointed Ireland’s Adam Nolan.