Home Amateur & Olympic Paris United & Astana Arlans Set for First-Ever WSB Team Championship

Paris United & Astana Arlans Set for First-Ever WSB Team Championship

The first-ever World Series of Boxing team champion will be crowned this week. After six months of competition, the two contenders, Paris United and Astana Arlans have registered their squads for the finals, which will be held at the Guizhou University Gymnasium in Guiyang, China, May 6-7.

The teams will battle for the title over two nights with a squad of ten boxers, each night featuring five bouts in each of the WSB’s five weight categories.  To view the Finals match-ups, click here.

Six months of competition featuring 76 matches have unfolded among 12 worldwide franchises comprised of over 200 boxers from 49 countries. Just four teams survived an ultimate test of will to compete in the inaugural WSB play-offs as the Baku Fires, Los Angeles Matadors, Astana Arlans and Paris United found enough success in the ring to advance and represent their respective franchise cities.

As has been the case all season, the team finals will be intense as two proud franchises featuring seven Olympians and 12 World Championships competitors will face-off in an decisive season-ending duel that is sure to feature the best non-stop boxing action outside the Olympic Games.

Paris United arrived in Guiyang over the weekend to train in earnest for the finals after eliminating favourites Baku Fires in the semi-finals. Brahim Asloum’s squad will, however, be without their bantamweight star Nordine Oubaali and light heavyweight Ludovic Groguhe, who are both contenders in the Individual Championships.

Groguhe had an operation on his hand last week after an injury he sustained during the finals and his recovery in time for the Individual Championships on May 27 and 28 is still uncertain.   Oubaali has chosen to sit out to concentrate on the Individual Championships.

Astana will arrive in Guiyang with a formidable squad that includes two Beijing medalists in its middleweight line-up. Gold medallist Bakhyt Sarsekbayev, who was beaten by Christopher Pearson of the Los Angeles Matadors for only the second time in six matches in the second semi-final leg, is joined by Slam Kanat, the bronze medalist from Beijing who has since changed nationality from Chinese to Kazakh.

With bantamweight Kanat Abutalipov and lightweight Yerzhan Mussafirov both qualified for the Individual Championships as the top boxers in their weight categories over the regular season, Astana also look strong in the lower weight divisions.

The absence of Abutalipov’s opponent in the Individual Championships, Oubaali, means a return to the ring for John Joe Nevin for Paris United. Nevin had missed both semi-finals after having trouble making the weight. He now returns for one crucial last fight at 54kg before a likely move up to lightweight for next season.  Joining Nevin will be Georgian boxer Giorgi Kilanava, a 2009 World Championships competitor who will be looking for his first WSB win after two previous defeats.

Rachid Azzedine is Paris United’s response to top lightweight Mussafirov of the Astana Arlans. The 28-year-old has been looking for a major title since his gold medal at the Tampere Tournament in 2008 but has excelled in the WSB, picking up five wins in five bouts before an unfortunate technical draw in the penultimate week of the regular season dashed his hopes of qualifying for the Individual Championships.

Azzedine’s partner at lightweight will be newcomer Abdelkader Chadi from Algeria, whose first bout of the season was during the first semi-final in Baku, where he lost to Semen Grivachev.

The difficult task of entering the ring against the mighty Kazakh middleweights falls to Michel Tavares and Stéphane Cuevas. The young southpaw Tavares looks strong witha 4-1 record so far this season, including a win on points against No. 2 middleweight Soltan Migitnov of the Baku Fires in the second semi-final. Cuevas, on the other hand, is still looking to make his mark after losing five straight bouts.

Both Astana light heavyweights finished the season in the top ten with strong performances. Ramzjon Ahmedov of Uzbekistan followed up his only loss in five bouts (against no. 1 Abdelhafid Benchabla) with devastating knock-out against Wei Zhang two weeks later. His team-mate, local boxer Maraz Moldagereyev, matched him over the regular season but extended his record to 5-1 with a win over Elber Passos of the Los Angeles Matadors in the semi-finals.

Paris United’s Hrvoje Sep from Croatia finished third in the light heavyweight standings with an impressive 6-1 record. Whilst he is sure to be a strong contender at light heavyweight, in the absence of Groguhe Paris will be relying on an unproven talent to replace him as national boxer Abdelkader Bouhenia enters the ring for the first time in WSB competition.

In the heavyweight bouts, Astana will face a determined Paris United duo who share the two biggest Youth world titles between them. Croatia’s Filip Hrgovic took gold at the 2010AIBA Youth World Championships by beating France’s Tony Yoka, who is now his team-mate. Yoka took the first Youth Olympic Games gold medal at super heavyweight last year. The two teenagers will be facing Kazakhstan’s Ruslan Myrsatayev, who knocked out David Imoesiri in the semi-finals and Uzbekistan’s Sardor Abdullaev, who finished with a record of 2-2 during the regular season.

Paris finished atop the Europe conference of WSB with a 9-3 record and advanced to the finals after a thrilling 6-4 victory over the Baku Fires.  Trailing 4-1 after the first semi-final, the United rally at home with a 5-0 shutout over the Fires to advance.  Astana, meanwhile, finished second in the Asia conference behind Baku but advanced to the finals after a 7-3 defeat of the Los Angeles Matadors.