World Series of Boxing action returns to the city of Guiyang in Guizhou Province, China on May 27 and 28 for the Individual Championships, where the winners will become the first-ever WSB Champions and secure the first five qualification places for boxing at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Individual Championships pitch the top two boxers from the regular season against each other head-to-head in each of the WSB’s five weight categories, for the first time over seven three minute rounds rather than the team competition’s usual five. The competition will take place over two days, with the bantamweight, lightweight and heavyweight bouts contested on May 27 and the middleweight and light heavyweight contests concluding the competition on May 28.
The Astana Arlans, Baku Fires, Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder and Paris United are all represented by two boxers at the Individual Championships, with the remaining two boxers being Algerian light heavyweight Abdelhafid Benchabla from Korea’s Pohang Poseidons and China’s Zhiming Wang from the Beijing Dragons. The Americas conference is the only one without any representative in the Individual Championships.
Astana Arlans, runners-up in the Team Finals, are well represented in the first two divisions with Kanat Abutalipov at bantamweight and Yerzhan Mussafirov at lightweight, both of whom topped the rankings in their weight category and both of whom fought – and won – in the Team Finals against Paris United two weeks ago.
Abutalipov will face Paris United’s Nordine Oubaali, whose last competitive WSB bout dates back to the first semi-final on March 11. Mussafirov will have to contend with the fierce backing of the home crowd for his opponent Zhimin Wang at the University of Guizhou Stadium. But Mussafirov is the only boxer to beat Wang this season, in the Beijing home ring back in week four of the competition.
“His advantage is that he had plenty of time to prepare for the fight,” says Mussafirov of Wang.
“But I think that we both have a chance to win. It is boxing!”
Representing Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder, 2007 AIBA World Champion and 2008 Olympic Games silver medallist Clemente Russo will enter the ring against Magomedrasul Medzhidov of the Baku Fires in the heavyweight contest.
Both boxers are unbeaten in six matches this season and both have stopped opponents early. They have also both defeated Tony Yoka, Paris United’s Youth Olympic Champion who impressed in the Team Finals.
Sergiy Derevyanchenko of the Ukraine is Milan’s second top-ranked boxer in action at the Individual Championships. In another Milan-Baku duel, he will face Soltan Migitinov of the Baku Fires for the middleweight belt.
“Soltan has quite a good boxing school,” says Derevyanchenko. “He’s a boxer devoted to an aggressive boxing in the head-to-head during the fight, without caring for defence.”
Algeria’s Abdelhafid Benchabla, representing the Pohang Poseidons, will lock horns with Ludovic Groguhe of Paris United in the light heavyweight contest that will be the season showdown for the WSB.
Little separates the two boxers on paper: both are 24 years old, both have an orthodox stance and both are also unbeaten in six bouts. Benchabla is one of the few boxers to beat Groguhe in the amateur ring at international level.
“I did meet Ludovic Groguhe on the occasion of the 4th edition of the Mohammed VI Trophy in Marrakech where I beat him on points, but that was already one year ago,” he says.
“I know that my opponent on May 28th, 2011 in Guiyang is not the one I met in 2010, myself as well; I am not the same boxer.
Each WSB Individual Champion will be awarded the WSB titleholder’s belt and a cheque for 20,000 US dollars. In addition, they will receive a quota place for the London 2012 Olympic Games.