Home Amateur & Olympic Cuba edges Azerbaijan in first half of WSB championship, leg two &...

Cuba edges Azerbaijan in first half of WSB championship, leg two & possible sudden death remain

Credit: AIBA

The first leg of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Season IV Finals between Azerbaijan Baku Fires and Cuba Domadores took place in Baku, with the Cubans narrowly winning the night 3-2.

Azerbaijan Baku Fires have had an excellent home record all season, but came up against a Cuba Domadores team who had only lost one match in their debut season.

When two teams of such class match up , every fight becomes entertaining. The first leg showed plenty of skill and heart by both sets of boxers.

The Light Flyweights (46-49kgs), Bantamweight (56kg), Light Welterweights (64kg), Middleweights (75kg) and Heavyweights (91kg) contested this match.

Khamza Nametov started the night off for The Baku Fires against the undefeated Cuban Yosbany Veitia, who had already beaten Nametov earlier on in the WSB season.

The Light-Flyweights are always energetic, but Veitia took energy to another level, dazzling the watching audience with dynamic reflexes, fast hands, and some entertaining showmanship as well.

Veitia won the fight on all three scorecards, and utilised his head movement and speed with great regularity.

Nametov tried hard, but he just couldn’t get near the Cuban who more than justified his number one ranking at the weight class, and he stretched his perfect WSB record to 8-0 this season, and most importantly gave his team the dream start they were hoping for.

Bout of the match

Rarely do incredible fights end with such a decisive scorecard, but the Middleweight clash between Khaybula Musalov of The Baku Fires, and Cuba’s Arlen Lopez was thoroughly engrossing for all five rounds.

Lopez won the fight according the judges in a very convincing manner, but while he won the majority of the rounds with his potent jab and slick defense, a lot of credit must be given to Musalov who pressed forward in every minute of the match, even after being deducted a point before the start of round for.

Musalov was undefeated this season in WSB prior to this contest, while Lopez had lost his only previous WSB fight, but he fought like an experienced WSB veteran, knowing exactly when to attack and when to defend.

The tenacity of Musalov and the intelligence of Lopez combined to create a classic in Baku.

Boxer of the match

Cuban Heavyweight Erislandy Savon went into the last fight of the evening knowing that a win was needed to ensure his Domadores finished the first leg in a winning position.

His opponent, Abdulkadir Abdullayev made his name knocking out Italian icon Clemente Russo earlier this season, and would have had no fear of the slick Savon at the start of the contest.

Five rounds later Savon showed everyone just why he was undefeated in WSB, taking his record to 7-0 with a dominant performance that established his reputation as the best Heavyweight in WSB.

Although Savon is incredibly tall, he fights with so much fluidity, and the speed of his punches surprised Abdullayev who tried very hard, but just couldn’t get near his opponent, especially after being ordered to take a standing count in the fight due to a particularly powerful Savon punch.

Savon won the fight by unanimous decision, and ensured his team went into the second leg ahead on aggregate.

The turning point

Coming into the fourth fight of the evening, Cuba were leading 2-1, and were about to showcase the number one ranked Light Welterweight in WSB.

Yasnier Toledo was 5-1 this season, with his lone loss coming against the man he was facing in the Finals, Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev who narrowly defeated the Cuban by one point on all three judges’ scorecards in their earlier meeting.

The rematch was just as close, with Gadzhialiyev winning the first couple of rounds, before Toledo rallied in the next two rounds.

Going into the final round, Toledo was winning the fight on one scorecard, while the other two scorecards were dead level.

Gadzhialiyev ’s constant pressure just about attracted the judges more than Toledo’s flurries, and he took his record over the Cuban to 2-0 in WSB, with both wins coming by the narrowest of margins, and in this instance by just one point on two scorecards by split decision.

With Erislandy Savon winning the last fight of the evening, a win for Toledo here would have resulted in Cuba going into the second leg with a huge 4-1 advantage.

The performance of Gadzhialiyev ensured that Cuba will start the second leg with a lead of just one match.

Wrap up
The second bout of the evening was a Bantamweight clash between Azerbaijan’s Magomed Gurbanov and Cuba’s Norlan Yera.

Gurbanov was far more experienced in WSB than his opponent who had lost his only previous WSB fight, and he started the contest incredibly well, winning the first three rounds on all three scorecards.

Yera improved immensely in the fourth and fifth rounds, winning them both, but it was too little too late for the Cuban, whose inexperienced perhaps showed a little, as he failed to put his foot on the gas early enough for it to affect the outcome of the match.

Gurbanov won the fight 48-47 according to all three judges, with Yera showing a lot of potential, and he will come again next season.

Both teams are naturally keen to ensure that they win within the ten bouts over both legs. If not, the contest will go down a Sudden Death match.

The Baku Fires Managing Director Rizvan Genzhiyev announced at the weigh in press conference that: “We hope we will not have to get to the Sudden Death bout”

Alberto Puig de la Barca, President of the Cuban Boxing Federation concurred with that statement for Cuba Domadores, explaining that:

“It took us two days to get to Baku, it is already tiring, we really hope it will be over with 10 bouts”

Nuripasha Talibov, Head Coach of The Baku Fires is confident either way.

“Our line-ups for the first and second day of the finals are equally good.”

Azerbaijan Baku Fires vs. Cuba Domadores — Leg Two

The first fight of the night is at Flyweight (52 kg) and takes place between Azerbaijan’s Elvin Mamishzada and Cuba’s Gerardo Cervantes.

Mamishzada won a silver medal at the 2010 European Championships in Moscow, and is 2-1 in WSB this season, with both of his wins coming at home.

His lone loss was to the undefeated Andrew Selby at the quarter-final stage.

Cervantes is 2-2 in WSB, and will be eager to finish his season with a positive record.

He has lost his last two away matches, both to Eastern European opponents, and Mamishzada will take confidence from the fact that Cervantes has lost by TKO this season, to Russia’s Bakhtovar Nazirov in week eight.

Mamishzada is small for the weight class, and will rely heavily on his speed against Cervantes.

The second fight sees the Welterweights (69 kg) in action, as WSB veteran Mahamed Nurudzinau faces the undefeated gold medal specialist Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo.

Baku Fires legend Nurudzinau has competed in all four WSB seasons, and the 33 year old is 1-1 this season.

Sotolongo is one of the best boxers on the planet, and has gold medals from the 2009 AIBA World Boxing Championships, and the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Cuban is 4-0 in his debut WSB season, with wins over Russia’s London 2012 bronze medallist Andrei Zamkovoi, and AIBA World Boxing Championships bronze medallist Gabriel Maestre of Venezuela in the competition so far.

This is a true battle of an experienced boxer in the WSB format, against a virtuoso boxer who has looked unbeatable in his short WSB career so far.

Nurudzinau has never lost at home in five WSB matches, and will need to be at his very best to make it six of the best against a true world class fighter.

Fight number three of the evening is a breathtaking battle between two boxers who know how to win tournaments.

Albert Selimov is representing Azerbaijan Baku Fires, and the number four ranked Lightweight (60 kg) is 3-1 in WSB this season, with all three of his victories coming at home.

The 28-year-old star beat Ukraine’s superstar Vasyl Lomachenko in the final of the 2007 AIBA World Boxing Championships, and has had only two WSB losses in career, one of them suffered by Lomachenko ,while the other was this season courtesy of Italy’s top boxer Domenico Valentino.

Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez is ranked number one at Lightweight, and is 6-0 in his first WSB season, including three wins away from home.

Alvarez is a two-time AIBA World Champion, and has fond memories of Baku, as he bagged a gold medal in the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in the city.

Both Selimov and Alvarez are true icons in this sport, and this has been a match-up many WSB fans have been salivating over since it was announced.

Whoever wins will have achieved an incredible victory, and one that will help their team out immeasurably.

Following up that dream clash are the big boys, as the Super Heavyweights (91+ kg) are in action fourth on the night.

Arslanbek Makhmudov represents The Baku Fires, and has a perfect 4-0 record in WSB this season, with three stoppage finishes in those four fights.

His opponent, Cuba’s José Angel Larduet is 2-1 this season, with his lone loss a TKO defeat to Filip Hrgovic in week four.

The 24-year-old Larduet competed in three different weight classes during his elite career, but the Cuban is ranked nine places lower in WSB compared to his number one ranked opponent, and may find himself vulnerable to Makhmudov’s incredible power, and fantastic home WSB record.

In the Super Heavyweight division one punch can end a fight at any point in the contest, and with so much on the line in this clash, it could be a case of blink and you miss it.

The last fight of the night will take place at Light Heavyweight (81 kg), between The Baku Fires representative Mikhail Dauhaliavets, and Cuba’s Julio Cesar De La Cruz.

Dauhaliavets is from Belarus, but represents the Azerbaijani team with great enthusiasm and loyalty.

The 33 year old is 0-2 this season, but impressed a lot of people in his last fight against the very experienced Hrvoje Sep, even winning the fight on one judge’s scorecard.

25 year old Julio Cesar De La Cruz won the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, and defended his title in Almaty last October.

He is 4-1 in his debut WSB this season, with only Russia’s European Champion Nikita Ivanov able to beat him in a close away bout.

Julio is the current team captain of the Cuban national squad, and boasts wins over the likes of Hrvoje Sep and Teymur Mammadov, and is the number one ranked Light Heavyweight in WSB.

While he will be the favourite in the contest, Dauhaliavets is a former Olympian, and carries power.

In the event of a draw on aggregate after all ten of the bouts in the Finals, the WSB Champion will be decided by a Welterweight (69kg) tiebreaker between Azerbaijan Baku Fires Yauheni Ramashkevich and Cuba Domadores’ Arisnoydis Despaigne.