Cuba Domadores reach the WSB Finals
The first leg of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) semi-finals between Russian Boxing Team and Cuba Domadores took place in Moscow, with the Cubans narrowly winning the night 3-2. The second leg was held at Ciudad Deportiva in Havana, giving Cuba home advantage.
The Domadores have been exceptional at home in their debut season, and this contest proved no different, as they won all five matches, with an aggregate score of 8-2 over the two legs. This result sees them through to the final, where they will face either Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, or Azerbaijan Baku Fires.
The Flyweights (52kg), Lightweights (60kg), Welterweights (69kg), Light Heavyweights (81kg) and Heavyweights (91kg) contested this match.
Leodan Nunez started the night off right for Cuba against the Russian Ovik Ogannisian, both of whom have only fought once previously in WSB.
Flyweights are always entertaining, and this was another engrossing contest that delighted the watching crowd. Both boxers were fast and highly skilled, and Ogannisian must have thought he had a great chance to win the fight.
The pace never dropped, but Nunez just had too much quality, and he won the fight on all three scorecards.
Bout of the match
The two-time AIBA World Championship gold medallist, and the number one ranked Lightweight in WSB Lazaro Alvarez was involved in an excellent fight in his contest against Russia’s Konstantin Bogomazov.
This was the second contest of the evening, and after Cuba had won the first bout, it was a crucial fight for both teams to either assert even more dominance in Cuba’s case, or try and get back in the match for Russia.
It was the beauty of Alvarez’s boxing that won the contest for the Cuban however. He knocked Bogomazov down towards the end of the first round, with a fierce right hand.
To the credit of Bogomazov however, he never gave up in the contest, and shook off the knockdown to last all five rounds, staying competitive throughout. The Russian even won the last round, which is a testament to his heart and desire.
Ultimately it was the hand of Alvarez that was raised, winning via unanimous decision.
Boxer of the match
Julio Cesar La Cruz is a two-time AIBA World Champion at Light Heavyweight, and has three WSB wins this season resulting in his number one ranking.
He came up against Aleksander Khotyantsev, who was making only his second WSB appearance of the season. La Cruz was terrific, showing his cat-like reflexes, dynamic footwork, and spiteful punching, winning near enough every minute of every round.
Khotyantsev tried hard, and never gave up on the contest, but all too often he was punching only fresh air, and when La Cruz really turned it on in the last round, there was little he could do.
La Cruz won all five rounds on all three scorecards, and improved his WSB record this season to 4-1.
The turning point
With Cuba winning 3-2 in Moscow, they only needed to win three matches at home in order to qualify for the finals.
After Cuba won the first two matches of the night, all the pressure was on Russia’s Andrei Zamkovoi, who fought Cuba’s Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo, the third-ranked boxer at Welterweight.
This was a contest of two medallists from the London 2012 Olympic Games, and was a high quality fight as expected.
Zamkovoi was very competitive, with his left hand a constant weapon, but his Cuban opponent was always that little bit sharper, and offered the more eye-catching punches throughout the contest, which resulted in a unanimous decision win for the Cuban, and a guaranteed place in the final for his Cuba Domadores team.
The last bout of the evening was a Heavyweight clash between Cuba’s Jose Angel Larduet who took on Russia’s Magomed Omarov.
Omarov was making his WSB debut, but looked composed and cool in the ring. Larduet was making his third appearance of the season, and after his team had won the previous four fights, he gave it his all.
The Cuban went on to win the fight via a split decision, resulting in a 5-0 whitewash victory for the Cubans.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires through to their first ever WSB Final
After Cuba Domadores became the first team to qualify for the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Finals, all eyes were turned to the second leg between Azerbaijan Baku Fires and the defending WSB Champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan.
The first leg took place in Kazakhstan, with the home side winning the night 3-2. The second leg was held at the Olympic Complex in Guba, giving Azerbaijan home advantage.
The Baku Fires had an excellent home record this season prior to the visit of Astana Arlans, and today’s 4-1 victory sees the Azeri team through to the final, where they will face the highly-rated Cuba Domadores.
The Flyweights (52kg), Lightweights (60kg), Welterweights (69kg), Light Heavyweights (81kg) and Super Heavyweights (91kg+) contested this match.
Perfect start for Fires
Elvin Mamishzada opened the evening for the Baku Fires as he took on Kazakstan’s Iliyas Suleimenov in a rematch of their week six contest – in which Azerbaijan’s Mamishzada had won by unanimous points’ decision.
The result of the rematch was no different this time. Suleimenov started the fight better, and clearly won the first couple of rounds, but Mamishzada grew into the contest, and incorporated better tactics as the fight went on.
Flyweights rely heavily on speed and agility, and often the boxing on show was a blur, as both boxers showcased their quickness. The end result was a very narrow, but deserved win for Mamishzada.
This win in the first fight gave the whole Azeri team confidence for the rest of the evening.
Many WSB fans were expecting a quality Lightweight contest between Albert Selimov representing Azerbaijan, and Samat Bashenov competing for Kazakhstan.
The first round was an intriguing three minutes, which was clearly won by Selimov. Unfortunately for the fans, Bashenov suffered an injury in the second round which caused the fight to be stopped.
As per WSB rules, the winner of the bout was awarded to the boxer who won the first round on the judges’ scorecards. Hence Albert Selimov made it 2-0 to Azerbaijan on the night, and gave them the lead 4-3 on aggregate.
Boxer of the match
Yauheni Ramashkevich was 1-2 in WSB this season going into his contest against Kazakstan’s Manat Omerzakov, but belied his record with a hugely impressive victory.
Ramashkevich started the fight strongly, with his left hooks a constant threat throughout the fight. Many were questioning his stamina, but his energy levels proved to be excellent, as he maintained control of the fight round after round.
This was the third fight of the night, and with the Baku Fires winning the first two, Ramashkevich continued the momentum with his unanimous decision victory. Omerzakov spent too much of the fight looking for one big punch, and lost his first WSB match of the season.
Sep reignites Kazakh’s hope
With the Baku Fires winning the first three fights, they could have wrapped qualification up in the fourth bout of the evening.
The Light Heavyweights were in action, with the Belarusian Mikhail Dauhaliavets representing Azerbaijan against the Croatian Hrvoje Sep, who walked into the fight with a total of 21 WSB fights in his career, 20 more than Dauhaliavets!
Despite the gulf in WSB experience, Dauhaliavets was impressive, and did win the fight on one of the judges’ scorecard.
However, a point deduction in the last round for the Belarusian for his gum shield falling out for the third time, and the constant pressure of Sep saw the Croatian claim the first win of the night for Kazakhstan, and crucially kept them in with a chance of reaching the WSB Finals.
Bout of the match
The best match of the night was saved until last, with Azerbaijan’s Super Heavyweight Haji Murtuzaliyev facing off against the WSB number two, Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic representing Astana Arlans Kazakhstan.
Going into the fight, Azerbaijan had already won three bouts in the evening, with Kazakhstan winning one. Astana Arlans’ last hope of reaching the final were therefore on Hrgovic’s shoulders, as a victory would enable the Kazakh side to contest a sudden death fight to determine the ultimate winner of the tie.
It was all to play for then, and the fight itself was spectacular. Murtuzaliyev is ranked lower than his opponent, is shorter, and had already lost to him in WSB, but against all the odds he fought his heart out, and never took a backward step in the contest, impressing the judges with his tenacity and accurate shots.
Murtuzaliyev eventually won the fight on points, and Azerbaijan Baku Fires were through to their first ever WSB Finals, having eliminated the defending champions