As the weeks have gone by, we have found ourselves using the phrase “wide open” to describe the World Series of Boxing’s (WSB) Group A almost ad nauseam this year, however that still remains the case in this exciting half of the draw. Everything is still to play for despite the two favorites: Season III runners-up the Ukraine Otamans and Season II Champions the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder beginning to pull away from the chasing pack in the table. Can they continue to gain ground or will they be hunted down this weekend? And who will hold the pivotal third and fourth place when the dust has settled?
Team Germany vs. Argentina Condors
In what is arguably the most important match for the overall look of the table this week, the Argentina Condors will try to defend their excellent position in the table (3rd), away from home to a fourth placed German side that is only a point behind them, despite also having a match in hand.
The Eagles are bringing out the big guns in a bid to move up the table, with second place potentially in reach if the Italians also slip-up against the USA. Irishman David Oliver Joyce is one such athlete at Lightweight (60kg). With a record of 5-2 across all four seasons of the WSB so far, Joyce is a steady hand. He will be eager to atone for his loss to current AIBA World bronze medallist Domenico Valentino at the end of last year. His opponent is the very talented Brian Nuñez who also has a point to prove. The Argentinian has probably had the most difficult introduction to the WSB of any new boxer in the group so far with his first bouts against World silver medallist Robson Conceição of the Italia Thunder and Pavlo Ishchenko of the Otamans, who has been touted as a potential new Vasyl Lomachenko. Thus it should be a heated affair.
German talisman Erik Pfeifer will also be in the ring at Super Heavyweight (91+kg). The current World bronze medallist has yet to be defeated in the WSB and has 4-0 record. He will be looking to seal the deal for the German outfit against his opponent Facundo Ghiglione who comes into the bout with a 1-3 record.
USA Knockouts vs. Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder
The Italia Thunder are easily the team with the greatest depth of talent in the WSB this year. Typically, and with the resources to spare, the Italians aren’t holding back anything and have sent a very strong team to Miami this weekend. AIBA World silver medallist Robson Conceição from Brazil will be making his second WSB appearance at Lightweight against American Daquan Mays who will be making his WSB debut after stepping in at the last minute for Luis Diaz. Vincenzo Mangiacapre will be another one to watch for the Thunder at Welterweight (69kg). The Italian is in good form at the moment. He looked solid at the World Championships in October and has a win this season already, taking him to 4-0 in the WSB. The London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist will be looking to further improve that record over WSB debutant Souleymane Cissoko of France who will be in the ring for the Knockouts.
But the USA are also fielding a solid team with talented Brazilian Borges de Souza making his WSB debut at Light Heavyweight (81kg) for the Knockouts, against Abdelhafid Benchabla who (unfortunately for the Desert Hawks), is the most successful Algerian in the WSB with a record of 15-4. Having fought for three different WSB teams but never his home country, he must be high on the Desert Hawks wish list for next season. Speaking of which…
Algeria Desert Hawks vs. Ukraine Otamans
The Desert Hawks face a difficult match this weekend against group leaders, the Ukraine Otamans. That said, the Ukrainians seem to be strategically resting their top boxers and are offering experience to some of their fringe athletes. If you combine both teams’ individual records coming into this bout, you get a total win/loss tally of 4-7 for the Algerians and 5-1 for the Otamans. Whilst the Ukrainian team has a cleaner sounding record, it also means that across all five boxers, they have only amassed six bouts of experience between them. Up-and-coming boxer Pavlo Ishchenko will however be in the team against the talented Frenchman Oualid Belaoura. Ishchenko has been looking good this year amassing two wins to take his record to 2-1, whilst the French athlete will be looking to atone for a disappointing opening loss against Team Germany. That might make this a lively encounter.
The Desert Hawks meanwhile will look to Light Heavyweight Nabil Kassel a two season veteran with a record of 3-2, to make short work of debutant Oleksandr Khyzhniak. On balance, the Ukrainian team still looks the stronger overall but if Kassel and some of the other more experienced athletes like Belaoura and Welterweight Fehim Chabane are able to step up to the plate, we could see an upset in Algeria.
Week 5, Group B
The World Series of Boxing’s (WSB) “Group of Death” has certainly lived up to its name. With six ferocious teams, representing some of the best boxing nations in the world battling it out across the season, mathematically it was always going to be tough for one team. Unfortunately for the Hussars Poland, so far that has been them. As recently as last March, the Poles were Season III quarter-finalists, their relentless and aggressive style seeing them beat down many a team. Nothing has changed except for having the misfortune of being randomly drawn into the most difficult group in WSB history. Can Captain Tomasz Jablonski offer some redemption to the team against defending champions?
Hussars Poland vs. Astana Arlans Kazakhstan
The Hussars go into this match desperately in need of points, having failed so far to win a single bout this season. They have come close to that breakthrough on a number of occasions. Several fights have gone right down to the wire, but ultimately went in favour of their opponents. The Hussars boxers keep coming though with unflagging spirit. Their bravery has even won them some sympathy among opposition fans and you just get the feeling that their time must be coming. But defending champions, Astana Arlans Kazakhstan may not be the easiest team to achieve their first win against. That said the Arlans, like the Ukraine Otamans in Group A, are making use of the trip to Poland to give experience to a younger generation of fighters, which may provide a window of opportunity for the Hussars. The reality is if Poland are their usual relentless selves they could take a bout or two, which would be an important first step for the Group B underdogs.
Fortunately for them, Tomasz Jablonski will be taking to the ring at Middleweight (75kg). One of Poland’s most experienced WSB boxers, Jablonski is now a three season veteran who will want to atone for his loss against the World bronze medallist Artem Chebotarev of Russia earlier this season. He has been drawn against Kazakh reserve Yerik Alzhanov who makes his WSB debut. This possibly represents Poland’s best opportunity for a win in the match, whether Jablonski can deal psychologically with the pressure, that this fact invites is another question.
Elsewhere Kazakh Heavyweight (91kg) Vasilii Levit is one to watch, not just today but for the remainder of the season, as he stands a real chance of becoming one of the WSB’s top heavyweights as his career develops. With a record of 2-0, including a stunning win over veteran Abdulkadir Abdullayev in his debut and a TKO victory in his last outing, Levit will be a serious problem for Polish debutant Lukasz Zygmunt.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires vs. Cuba Domadores
The Cuba Domadores got the bad news this week that their star boxer, World Champion Julio La Cruz had been shot in an incident in Cuba. Fortunately, the injury was not life threatening and he is already on the road to recovery after surgery to remove the bullet from his hip. The perpetrators, who may have been trying to rob him, have already been arrested. This is still a serious blow to the Cuban team as a whole, and although La Cruz was not scheduled to fight this weekend there may well be a psychological impact on the team. To make matters worse, they have also had to make the long flight to Azerbaijan from Cuba. The athletes have been through a lot this week but are nonetheless behaving with utmost professionalism and everyone at the WSB and AIBA wishes them well, particularly of course Julio La Cruz himself to whom we wish a speedy recovery.
The WSB Bad Boys, the Baku Fires meanwhile are entering this contest in very good shape and with typical Azeri bravado, have selected a line-up that they think will help stall the Cuban locomotive. Thus far the Cubans have only lost two bouts all season (both to defending champions Astana Arlans), yet Middleweight Khaybula Musalov will be the Fires’ main hope of adding to that tally. The number two ranked boxer in Season II, Musalov has an impressive 8-3 record and has only lost to the very best in the business such as the Otamans’ Dmytro Mytrofanov, the Arlans’ Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Italia Thunder’s Michael Tavares. His bout with Yasnier Toledo, may be the match-up of the night.
At Heavyweight, Erislandy Savon seemed to struggle in his last outing despite claiming his second WSB win. As one of the most talented Heavyweights in the world at the moment, Savon needs to work harder in the ring to allow his skill to show through. His first round flash TKO of Korean Jinho Heo in the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013, which happened in less than thirty seconds of boxing, indicates that he has the talent to go far. The Fires’ Denis Latipov can hit hard too however as his round one TKO of Polish boxer Mateusz Malujda proved. This could be a spectacular bout to finish the evening.
Russian Boxing Team vs. Mexico Guerreros
It’s been a difficult season for the Guerreros but they bounced back in style in Week 4 with an emphatic 5-0 win over the Hussars Poland. They will be looking to continue that run. Russia meanwhile seem to be taking no chances and are deploying some of their most talented boxers including current World silver medallist Vladimir Nikitin at Bantamweight (56kg).
Now 4-2 in the WSB, Nikitin will be looking to make use of the home advantage to cement his record against the experienced Aaron Almeda of Mexico. The Guerreros are again choosing to include a surprising number of new faces and will be looking to the experience of Bantamweight Alameda and the precocious talent that is Light Flyweight (46-49kg) Joselito Velazquez to impose themselves.