Azerbaijan Baku Fires hold off Uzbek Tigers 3-2 in a spectacular night of boxing in Baku
Azerbaijan Baku Fires bounced back from their bruising opening round defeat at the hands of reigning WSB champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan to secure their first win of the season against the Uzbek Tigers in Baku. It was a case of coming back down to earth with a bump for the Tigers, who had demolished Puerto Rico Hurricanes 5-0 in their first ever WSB encounter in San Juan and will now host the titleholders at the end of February.
It was an explosive start to the evening as Azeri flyweight Magomed Ibiyev and Uzbekistan’s Abrorjon Kodirov delivered an exquisite display of world-class boxing, Ibiyev’s early combinations scoring well with the judges. Kodirov grew as the bout wore on, but with the first win so crucial for both sides, it was the Fires’ star who won a split decision to give the hosts the advantage.
Uzbekistan were able to call upon one of the world’s most promising lightweights, Elnur Abduraimov, as they looked to level the match. The AIBA World Championship bronze medalist coped well with the frenzied counter-attacking of Fires’ Khasan Arsunkaev, who eventually succumbed to a third warning and disqualification as the Tigers levelled the night at 1-1.
Azerbaijan’s Belarusian boxer Yauheni Ramashkevich used all of his experience at welterweight to defeat WSB debutant Dostonbek Turdiev, a newcomer at the weight class. Turdiev turned up the heat in the second round with some strong right jabs, but was unable to sustain the pressure and the hosts eased into a 2-1 lead.
The Baku Fires put the match beyond the Tigers’ reach when 26-year-old super heavyweight Arslanbek Makhmudov won by unanimous decision against Sardor Abdullaev, but the impressive Uzbeks were not finished, and secured what could be a crucial point after a brilliant final bout between their Asian Confederation light heavyweight champion Shukhrat Abdullaev and the hosts’ London 2012 Olympian Mikhail Dauhaliavets. The tie sprang to life in the third round as Abdullaev demolished his opponents’ defence and maintained a ferocious intensity until the final bell, the Tigers going down 3-2 but not without a fight.
USA Knockouts find their form to defeat Group B rivals Mexico Guerreros 4-1 in Miami
Week 4 of WSB Season VI came to a close in Miami as the USA Knockouts powered past Mexico Guerreros to earn their first win of the season.
Knockouts’ super heavyweight Brandon Lynch and Guerreros’ veteran Elvis Garcia got the action underway, the relatively inexperienced Lynch turning up the heat from the third round to secure something of a surprise win for the hosts that set the tone for the match.
In the evening’s second contest, US National Olympic Trials winner Jonathan Esquivel launched several excellent hooks in the opening round against Mexico Guerreros’ Rogelio Romero to take an early lead. Romero managed to raise his rhythm but Lynch continued to find gaps in the Mexican’s defence and secured his first WSB win and give the Knockouts a commanding 2-0 lead.
Paul Kroll was the surprise package of the US National Olympic Trials two months ago, and the welterweight’s defence was again first-class early in his WSB debut against Francisco Armenta. The Mexican patiently fought his way back in to the bout, and as Kroll tired, Armenta was able to complete a stirring turnaround and bring the Guerreros were back into the match at 2-1.
It was the perfect time for the hosts to introduce star flyweight Antonio Vargas, who went on the attack in the third round against Orlando Huitzil and never looked in trouble, securing the Knockouts their 3-1 win at a canter. That left the Knockouts’ sole Rio 2016 qualified boxer to date Carlos Balderas to exact revenge on Mexico Guerreros’ Lindolfo Delgado, who had defeated him in the quarter-finals of the 2015 Pan-American Games. A huge left hook left Delgado reeling, and the 19 year-old American Olympic hope delivered the win to make the score on the 4-1 on the night.
Frazer Clarke shines as in-form British Lionhearts tame Morocco Atlas Lions 3-2 in Casablanca
Having taken five matches to register a first away victory in Season V, the British Lionhearts made it two wins on the road out of two so far this campaign with an impressive display in Casablanca. It was a second defeat in a row for the Atlas Lions who need a win when they host the USA Knockouts in two weeks’ time to have a hope of qualifying from Group B.
Britain’s exciting young lightweight Luke McCormack got the Lionhearts off to the perfect start, controlling his opening bout against Abdellah Boudrar. Both boxers had gathered solid WSB experience during Season V, but McCormack was in inspired form, barely letting his opponent into the contest as he secured the visitors the early advantage.
Another top-class Brit, who came out on top at Rio Boxing Test Event in December last year, super heavyweight Frazer Clarke, doubled the lead in even more emphatic fashion as he despatched Morocco’s Ahmed Bourous. Clarke looked comfortable and found his range late in the third round, landing a huge right to put Bourous on the canvas. He recovered well, but the judges’ decision was never in doubt and the Lionhearts found themselves one bout from another valuable away win.
London 2012 Olympian Abdelali Daraa had the task of trying to haul the Atlas Lions back into the match against European Confederation flyweight silver medallist Muhammad Ali, but he struggled to find a way through the Brits’ tight defence. Growing in confidence as the bout wore on, Ali’s experience was enough to hold off the challenge and give the Lionhearts an unassailable 3-0 lead.
Morocco’s superstar southpaw Mohammed Rabii didn’t look quite as sharp as he did throughout the whole of last season, but the 2015 AIBA World Welterweight Champion was able to continue his unbeaten run against Haizel Tabiri-Essuman. The Brit landed some excellent uppercuts in the second round but Rabii was up to the challenge and edged the bout to give the fans something to cheer.
Morocco’s African Confederation bronze medallist Hassan Saada lives and trains in Casablanca, and the home favourite finished the night on a high by winning a tight bout against British Lionhearts’ determined WSB debutant Thomas Hart. Hart may have lost, but his strong performance will clearly make him one to watch for the future, and the Lionhearts, who now look forward to back-to-back home matches against Mexico Guerreros and USA Knockouts, have got their Season VI campaign off to the ideal start.