The World Series of Boxing WSB Season IV gets underway today. Group A looks set to be a wide open affair while Group B, has already been dubbed the Group of Death. Let’s take a closer look.
Group A Week 1: Just How open is it?
Group A looks set to be a wide open affair with Season III runner’s up the Ukraine Otamans and Season II winners the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder clear favorites to dominate the group this year.
With those two Franchises expected to perform well, the remaining two places in the Play-Offs are completely up for grabs by any of the other teams. While Group B may be exciting for boxing fanatics with the big name teams fighting in a tight league, the Group A situation will create a degree of unpredictability which will generate no small degree of interest itself.
Remember this year with the move to ten weight categories, the boxers have been split into two groups: Category 1 (C1) and Category 2 (C2). In terms of weights, the categories break down in the following way:
- C1 = 46-49kg, 56kg, 64kg, 75kg, 91kg
- C2 = 52kg, 60kg, 69kg, 81kg, 91+kg
This week, Group A will start the competition under C2.
Argentina Condors vs. Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder
If Argentina have hopes of making it through to the Play-Offs this year, this is the kind of match they will need to win. Fighting Italy at home represents a chance to take some points against one of the two big teams. But it will not be easy, in fact; on paper it looks almost impossible. The Condors have lined up a team with a total of three WSB wins between them and two debutants. Italia Thunder has one of the most star-spangled line-ups at their disposal of any WSB team this term, and they will be deploying a few of their big guns in Argentina. For instance they will be unleashing the exciting Welshman Andrew Selby at Flyweight (52kg).
The former British Lionheart and 2013 AIBA World bronze medallist is one to keep your eyes on this year. He will be going out against Christian Eduardo Roda of the Condors who has only fought once before in the WSB (a loss in Week 2 of Season III) Former AIBA World Champion (2011) and current World silver medallist Robson Conceicão will be exciting to watch for Italia Thunder as he takes on fellow WSB debutant Brian Nuñez for the Condors at Lightweight (60kg). The other Italia Thunder boxer who merits a special introduction is Super Heavyweight (91+kg) Mihai Nistor from Romania who was a key member of the Season III winning Astana Arlans Kazakhstan side.
Those are the three experienced boxers that Italia hope will win the match,. Meanwhile they are taking the decision to hand debuts to Italian Riccardo Pintaudi and Dutchman Peter Mullenberg at Welterweight (69kg) and Light Heavyweight (81kg) respectively. Pintaudi will have a particularly rough time of it against Argentina’s Brian Castaño. Castaño was responsible for two of the Condor team’s three collective wins and will offer a baptism of fire to the Italian.
Ukraine Otamans vs. USA Knockouts
USA open their Season IV campaign in the most difficult way imaginable with an away trip to Kiev to face the Otamans. The Ukrainian team released pictures showing that one of last Season’s super star boxers Olympic Champion Oleksandr Usyk has been helping coach his former team mates, despite not joining the WSB himself this season. This will be bad news for the USA Knockouts who will feel that the Otamans have enough advantages on their side already.
Better news is that the Otamans are fielding an inexperienced team, hoping that the home draw is the time to give some of their less-experienced boxers some ring-time while their leading lights recuperate from the AIBA World Championships, (which were held only a few weeks ago in October). On that basis, the Knockouts’ boxers who have the potential to tip the match in the favour of the visitors are Super Heavyweight Paul Koon III who is one of the most experienced members of the squad.
For the Otamans, look out for Season III veteran Rostyslav Arkhypenko who won only one of his five bouts last year. He will be desperate to improve that record and a home draw against Bahodirjon Sultonov of Uzbekistan could be the ideal moment for that to happen. The Uzbek, is in a similar situation himself with two wins out of six bouts in the WSB. So this could be a hotly contested battle, with neither fighter really able to face another loss on their record.
German Eagles vs. Algeria Desert Hawks
The travelling Desert Hawks side will be made up entirely of WSB debutants. That is one potentially surprising fact; the other is how international the team looks with Frenchmen Oualid Belaoura at Lightweight and Fehim Chaabane at Welterweight along with Togo boxer Yaovi Agbonsong all appearing for the Desert Hawks.
Agbonsong will have the most difficult debut of the night when he steps out against German talisman Erik Pfeifer. Pfeifer, who took a bronze at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013 is unbeaten in the WSB so far with a record of 3-0. Chaabane doesn’t get it much better as he will be facing Arajik Marutjan who also took a bronze at this year’s World Championships. Although Marutjan lost his only WSB bout to date, it was to the talented Michel Tavares of Italia Thunder.
This doesn’t really besmirch his record. Serge Michel adds backbone to a German side that looks set to dominate on paper. Deploying so many of their top boxers so soon after the World Championships suggests that this is a match that the German team consider to be tactically pivotal even at this early stage of the season. They may be right.
Group B: Cuba Set to Make Debut
Astana Arlans Kazakhstan vs. Azerbaijan Baku Fires
Defending champions, the Arlans will be looking to carry on the form they enjoyed last season and that their national team demonstrated during the recent AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013, where the team topped the medals list. WSB bad boys, the Baku Fires meanwhile will be looking to rock the boat early and have sent a strong team to attempt to accomplish that.
They will be looking to Heavyweight (91kg) Abdulkadir Abdullayev who has fought across all three seasons of the WSB and has only lost once in nine bouts. He faces debutant Vasilii Levit, who can expect a rough introduction to the competition. Mikalai Vesialou is another top boxer who is unbeaten across two seasons and seven bouts. However, in what is potentially the bout of the match, he has been drawn against none other than Mr WSB himself, Ukrainian Sergiy Derevyanchenko who has an astonishing 20-2 record across all three seasons.
The Arlans meanwhile will also be looking to Bagdad Alimbekov who was unbeaten last season over six bouts including in the Finals, to get some points on the board for the team at Bantamweight (56kg) against debutant Magomed Gurbanov. This will be an interesting bout, with both teams handing debuts to new boxers whilst retaining more experienced heads where necessary.
Mexico Guerreros vs. Cuba Domadores
In a replay of this summer’s exciting exhibition match, the Domadores travel to Mexico to make their full WSB debut. The Guerreros will be looking for revenge after losing on home soil to the team that many are tipping to go all the way this year. Veteran Light Welterweight (64kg) Juan Romero will be the Guerreros go to man.
Having fought across all three seasons of the WSB and losing only once in the last two years in the competition, Romero will nonetheless have his hands full in Yasnier Toledo Lopez, who looked fearsome on his way to a World silver medal just a few weeks ago. This will be one of the most interesting bouts of the match. Elsewhere, Erislandy Savon Cotilla is going to be one of the Domadores to watch this season. He will almost certainly be contesting for one of the top slots of the Heavyweight category this Season. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the five rounds against fellow WSB newcomer Djibril Coupe of France for the Guerreros.
Russian Boxing Team vs. Hussars Poland
Although it is very early days in the competition, this match in St.-Petersburg and the repeat in Poland could be the deciding factors between which of the two teams make it through to the Play-Offs. That explains why the Hussars leading boxer Tomaz Jablonski has been deployed at Middleweight (75kg). With three wins and one loss under his belt, he will be pivotal to the team’s success.
However the fact that this match over both legs could be the difference between sailing through to the Play-Offs and being unceremoniously dumped out of the competition early seems to have been recognised in St.-Petersburg too. Thus we see the welcome inclusion of 2010 European Champion and 2013 World bronze medallist Artem Chebotarev for the first time in Russia’s starting line-up. This is probably the bout of the match on paper.
2013 World Silver medallist Vladimir Nikitin is also taking to the ring at Bantamweight against Sylwester Kozlowski who will have to put his 0-3 losing streak up against one of the heaviest hitters in the world at that weight category. It will certainly be an interesting match, and one that could shape the future of the group.