The Astana Arlans Kazakhstan marched into the Season VII Final after completing a thrilling two-leg win over British Lionhearts in London on Thursday night. The new-look Lionhearts line-up struggled to contain the two-time WSB Champions in a bouncing York Hall, and the Kazakhs needed just two bouts to complete the job they started so well in the first leg and went on to complete a 7-3 win.
Lionhearts’ Niall Farrell was the man charged with the task of getting his team back into the match early on via his opening Flyweight (52kg) bout against Olzhas Sattibayev, but it was the Kazakh who started the brighter, edging a hard-fought first round thanks to his impressive movement and dynamic attacks. In an engaging encounter, Farrell was always battling to stay on terms with his opponent but was never outclassed, and at the final bell there was just one point in it as the split decision went to Sattibayev, and the visitors took a big step closer to the final.
With the match on the line, Chad Milnes got his Lightweight (60kg) bout against Zakir Safiullin off to an excellent start with some eye-catching blows, but a powerful left over the top from the Kazakh at the end of a lively first round saw the Arlans put one foot in the Final, and a big uppercut early in the second put the match beyond any doubt as the combinations rained down on the Lionhearts’ newcomer and his corner halted the contest before the third round could begin.
Safe in the knowledge that the Semi-Final was won, Aslanbek Shymbergenov put in an excellent display at Welterweight (69kg) against Manoj Kumar, the experienced Indian struggling to come to terms with the dominant Kazakh. Kumar came to life in the second as he started to find his range, but Shymbergenov’s long reach always posed problems and he eventually eased through to record a unanimous win.
At Light Heavyweight (81kg), Thomas Whittaker-Hart went straight on the offensive against Arman Rysbek, but it was the Kazakh who managed to repeatedly get through his opponent’s defences with some big uppercuts. The taller Whittaker-Hart worked his way back into the contest well, keeping his distance and largely staying out of trouble, and as Rysbek chased the bout, his opponent merely grew stronger, the Lionhearts earning their first point of the night at the end of an intense bout.
The hosts’ second New Zealander in the team, Patrick Mailata, then took his Super heavyweight (+91kg) tie to Astana Arlans’ debutant Nursultan Amanzholov in the last of the evening’s action, waiting for mistakes and picking off the Kazakh as he seized on any signs of hesitation with some big body shots and solid jabs. Mailata assumed the lead at the halfway point and never relinquished it, a big left from the New Zealander sealing the action in emphatic fashion, but it is the Arlans who progress to the Grand Final where they will meet the winner of Friday night’s battle between Colombia Heroicos and Cuba Domadores.