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World Series of Boxing week 10 previews: Clemente Russo & Julio Cesar la Cruz highlight action

Credit: AIBA

Week 10, Group A: Revenge for Russo after loss?

In yet another week of action in the World Series of Boxing (WSB), Group A is set to feature several bouts between some of the world’s top fighters.

With things remaining close at the top of the group, the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder will hope to extend their lead over the Ukraine Otamans. World Champion Clemente Russo is also looking for a return to form after losing his last two WSB matches.

Their opponents have other ideas however. With third place in sight for the USA Knockouts, they are hoping to cause an upset in Italy, whilst Team Germany is set for a tough away match in Buenos Aires with the Argentina Condors.

Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder vs. USA Knockouts

The Season II winners will be hosting the USA in another important match this week. Having won their 100th home victory last weekend against the Ukraine Otamans, the Italians remain the only team in the WSB to retain an unbeaten home record across all four WSB seasons. This week however, they will find themselves faced with an extremely focused Knockouts team, who know that a victory would all but guarantee their passage into the Playoffs.

But the Italians have enough motivation of their own: with the Ukraine’s match with Algeria cancelled this week, a win would put them four points clear at the top of the table. One of the most interesting bouts of the evening will probably be between Philippine boxer Mark Barriga of the Italia Thunder and Chinese athlete Lu Bin for the Knockouts. Both Light Flyweights (46-49kg) have impressed so far in their debut season, and this will be something of a battle royal between two of the biggest up-and-coming stars of the weight category.

The Italians will also be offering Branimir Stankovic one last chance at redemption for this Regular Season. The Light Welterweight (64kg) was the number two ranked Lightweight last year in the old WSB weight categories (57-61kg), and won five of his six bouts including a tough semi-final contest against the Ukraine Otamans. This season however has not gone at all well for the Serbian star and he has lost both his matches so far. In Carlos Adames (1-1) of the Dominican Republic and USA Knockouts, he will have a tough opponent who is on the up. It should be an interesting bout.

Heavyweight (91kg) World Champion Clemente Russo is also expected to grace the canvas for the Thunder. He will also be looking to atone for his sole fight and loss this season. When added to the fact that his only other previous loss in the WSB occurred in his last appearance last season, he has now not won a WSB match in almost year, this looks like a nasty smirch in his 17-2 record book as it stands. Will he be able to respond?

Argentina Condors vs. Team Germany

With Argentina effectively out of the running this year, you might be inclined to think they would be taking their foot off the gas in what will be their last match of the campaign. Not a bit of it. They have announced a line-up that will cause a considerable amount of distress to any Team Germany fans who were hoping for easy points away to Group A’s bottom placed Franchise. Last season’s number one ranked Light Heavyweight Yamil Peralta will be leading the Condors out at Heavyweight.

The current World bronze medallist with his unbeaten WSB record of 7-0 represents a real mountain to climb for Germany’s Johann Witt who has gone 0-2 in his opening season after being drawn against some of the toughest Heavyweights in the WSB, including Chouaib Bouloudinats of the Algeria Desert Hawks (12-5) and Imre Szello (12-3) of the Italia Thunder. This looks like it will be another tough day in the office for him. At Bantamweight (56kg), Condors boxer Alberto Melian has the chance to become one of the top rated WSB athletes going into next season if he can extend his 7-1 record against Germany’s Omar El Hag (1-1).

Week 10, Group B: La Cruz returns

In the last week of the Regular Season Group B promises more outstanding bouts and intriguing matches. None more so the announced return to the ring of World Champion Julio La Cruz from Cuba. La Cruz was the victim of an armed robbery exactly eight weeks ago this Saturday, which saw him shot in the hip and undergoing surgery to remove the bullet.

Whist La Cruz’ return is the story on everyone’s lips; it is not the only exciting piece of news the “Group of Death” has to offer this week.

Cuba Domadores vs. Azerbaijan Baku Fires

Although there will be ten world class athletes competing in Havana this weekend, this match is all about just one man: Julio Cesar La Cruz. The Light Heavyweight (81kg) double World Champion and London 2012 Olympian makes his return after recovering from an armed robbery and having a bullet removed from his hip. He won’t have the easiest of returns against Teymur Mammadov, a very capable boxer who took silver in the 2011 World Championships and bronze at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The new leaner incarnation of this boxing machine won his WSB debut at Light Heavyweight in Week eight this season. If ever La Cruz was at danger of losing a WSB bout, this could be the moment. Regardless of the outcome of this bout however, the sporting world should be stunned by his recovery. Both physically and psychologically, for an athlete to return to the ring against such high quality opposition just two months after being shot is an amazing story and is testimony to his incredible levels of fitness. These of course will be called into question by the Azeri.

The WSB “Bad Boys”, the Azerbaijan Baku Fires are not known for their kindness in the ring; rather they are relentless, aggressive and highly physical fighters. Will the master tactician La Cruz have enough in the bag to see off such a high calibre and physical fighter as Mammadov? With that in the mind of every boxing fan, the rest of the match is almost a side show…

…But what an amazing side show! Former World Champion, and London 2012 Olympic Champion Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo makes his long awaited second appearance in the WSB Welterweight (69kg) category against the very tricky young Azeri Yauheni Ramashkevich, while at Lightweight (60kg) Hurshid Tojibaev, a Beijing Olympian and former Continental Silver Medallist who holds a WSB record of 3-3 will be taking on an unknown quantity in Pablo Vicente who makes his debut this weekend. Elsewhere, at Super Heavyweight (91+kg), the Azeri’s are fielding Arslanbek Makhmudov who has four wins on his card, three by way of KO or TKO. He will be taking on 30 year old Cuban veteran Yoandris Maceo who is making his WSB debut.

Mexico Guerreros vs. Russian Boxing Team

The Guerreros may be out of the running this year, but that does not mean that they are going down without a fight. A world-class line up of boxers lies in wait for the visiting Russian team this week. 2013 WSB Boxer of the Year Elias Emigdio will be leading the charge for the Guerreros at Flyweight (52kg). Emigdio has a stunning 16-3 record and has won both his matches this year by TKO he will be a tough nut for Russian debutant Ovik Ogannisian to crack. At Welterweight Marvin Cabrera, who enters the fray with a 7-2 record, will also represent a difficult introduction to the WSB for 21 year old Alim Gadzhiev.

The Russians will however benefit from a Walkover at Super Heavyweight and the presence of Eduard Yakushev at Light Heavyweight. Yakushev is 5-2 and has taken the scalps of some very serious boxers such as Germany’s Serge Michel. The Guerreros Moldovan boxer Petru Ciobanu (0-2) is likely to find him a troublesome opponent. Are the Guerreros packing enough heat to out-gun the Russian visitors? Find out on AIBAboxingTV.com.

Astana Arlans Kazakhstan vs. Hussars Poland

Last weekend, the Hussars won their first (but long-deserved) match of the season against the Mexico Guerreros. Buoyed by the experience and facing a team of Kazakh debutants, Hussars fans should be hopeful for this weekend right? Well not exactly. One of those boxers happens to be Daniyar Yeleussinov, the current AIBA World Champion at Welterweight who was also voted the best AIBA Boxer of the Year for 2013. With a history of success in AOB, the Kazakh’s first appearance would almost certainly have grabbed the headlines today were it not for the sensational return of his fellow World Champion La Cruz. His 19 year old Armenian opponent Zhora Simonyan, no matter how game, will need nothing short of a miracle to win this bout.

The Poles meanwhile will be looking to Dawid Michelus, who is 3-3 in the WSB and won his last outing at Lightweight to turn the heat on 28 year old Kazakh debutant Gani Zhaliauov. But as those of us who were at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013 can attest, the Sports Palace can be quite a noisy and intimidating place for visiting boxers.

Can the Poles make it two in a row, or will the deep reserves of Kazakh talent and vocal home support be enough to secure the hosts another victory?