A night of great celebrations followed for Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder’s legion of supporters here at the ExCeL Arena in London Docklands as their side collected the WSB Team Trophy before a huge crowd at the venue which hosts the Boxing tournaments – and several other events – in the 30th Olympiad later this Summer. The crowds had gathered, from early evening, in anticipation for the competition’s debut on British soil as boxing fans came out in force to witness the best of Olympic fighters taking to the ring for five top class bouts.
Before an audience which included AIBA President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu , the Italian side proved just too strong for Moscow Dynamo. The support could hardly have been better for the Italians had the finals taken place in Milano. In terms of audience participation this was a night to remember – if you were an Italian supporter – one to forget if you supported the gallant Moscow Dynamo team. The 4-1 final outcome perhaps a shade unfair on the Russians. Insofar as the vast majority of the neutrals – and the Press Corps – were concerned it was a night to enjoy a feast of good boxing without worrying about the result.
It will of course be vastly different here in late July and early August when the Olympic Games take place. The ticketing system has ensured that there will be a considerable number of new boxing fans, male and female here – many applied for Olympic tickets to any sport and quite a few of those I spoke with last night have ended up with boxing tickets. After last night, most are looking forward to events here in July and August.
It will also be an audience that is packed with (naturally) British boxing fans whilst according to ‘usually reliable sources’ there has been a very considerable number of tickets purchased by Irish fans eager to see their star fighters in action. But last night was all about the WSN finals so without more ado we bring you a report on the night’s bouts courtesy of aiba.org.
Bantamweights Vincenzo Picardi and Vladimir Nikitin kicked-off the action in spectacular style, with the crowd firmly behind them, the two diminutive fighters started off all guns blazing in the first round. 27-year-old Italian Picardi had the better of the opening exchanges as he connected with several classy combinations. It was more of the same in the second as the experienced Picardi pierced Nikitin’s defences with some precise hooks. The Russian orthodox was then cut after his rival caught him with a thunderous uppercut but this seemed to spur Nikitin, who then threw some hard rights to push back his opponent as he took the third.
Nikitin continued on the offensive in the fourth round but in the fifth this suited the Italian who was leaning back, defences tight, soaking up the pressure, waiting for the Dynamo man to open before picking his shots. There was a chorus of ‘Vincenzo, Vincenzo’ from the vast number of Milano fans to which Picardi responded to by unleashing some powerful hooks. It was a quality fight but there had to be a winner and it was Picardi who prevailed and won by split decision to give Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder the early advantage.
Picardi later declared, “It was a tough fight, Nikitin is a great boxer”, before adding, “With my victories in the WSB this season I will go to the Olympic Games full of confidence”.
Adlan Abdurashidov, this season’s top ranked Lightweight then made his entrance as he faced the emerging talent from Serbia, Branimir Stankovic. Dynamo Moscow’s Abdurashidov has such high intensity when he steps into the ring and after five wins this campaign and a place at the WSB Individual Championships confirmed, the young 22-year-old Russian was brimming with confidence here. This showed as he taunted his opponent in the early exchanges. Although the Milano Thunder orthodox fighter might lack the experience at this level, the word from the Italian camp is that the 21-year-old Stankovic is quite a prospect and he demonstrated why he is rated so highly with an accomplished display.
Defying the odds, Stankovic fancy footwork did the damage in the first two rounds, moving with grace and throwing devastating combinations as he completely unsettled Abdurashidov. He took the third in similar style throwing some hard hooks that hit the target as the Russian struggled to contain him. The Dynamo star was running out of ideas, unable to pin the fleet-footed Stankovic down. The young Serb from Milano had by now taking the first four rounds and with the fifth just a formality he registered an emphatic victory that saw the Italian outfit move to 2-0 up in the tie.
Abdurashidov was keen to stress post-match, “With me arriving late in London, my preparations were not the best and I did not feel at 100%, but I will come back much stronger for the Individual Championships in June”.
With Dynamo Moscow now trailing, Maxim Gazizov was given the unenviable task of beating Middleweight supreme king Sergiy Derevyanchenko, who had not lost in his two seasons in the WSB. The first round was a tentative one by both orthodox fighters as they tried to get the measure of each other. As Moscow’s Gazizov tried to apply the pressure in the second, after edging the first, but he was then caught but some solid punches. You could understand why going on the offensive was such a dangerous tactic with Derevyanchenko such an accomplished counter-puncher. Gazizov was ahead on the judges’ scorecards after three rounds following his positive display. The Ukrainian 26-year-old, reigning WSB Individual Champion in his weight category, undefeated in eleven fights, then started to slowly pick his rival apart with some telling shots to both the head and the body. The master technician stayed composed as he dominated the latter stages to take the win, giving Milano the overall victory and ensuring his team mates would hold the Team Champions Trophy aloft at the end of the evening.
Derevyanchenko was delighted with victory, “I am very happy to achieve such a win for my team, it was tough against Gazizov but I boxed well and now we are Champions”.
The growing credentials of Oleksandr Gvozdyk of Dynamo Moscow were once again in evidence as the Ukrainian got the better of the experience Hungarian Imre Szello in the opening exchanges. Szello was in the mood for this one, safe in the knowledge that his team has the title sewn up, but in Gvozdyk he faced one of the competition’s rising stars. The Light Heavyweight Moscow star was in exhilarating form, alternating between head and body shots as he quickly took the initiative. Szello tried to keep his opponent at bay with the jab but Gvozdyk seemed hungry to impress and record a win for his team. Vital points were scored by the 190cm tall 25-year-old as he took the win in style to reduce Dynamo Moscow’s deficit.
The Ukrainian sensation, when asked how WSB impacted on his Olympic preparations, said, “Five rounds is hard but it gets you in much better shape so I will go to London with high hopes following my season in the WSB”.
After his fighting talk at the weigh-in, Dynamo Moscow’s Vitaly Kudukhov was intent on inflicting a first career defeat on reigning Heavyweight Individual Champion Clemente Russo. The Russian started off furiously, getting as close to Russo as possible, throwing all kind of punches in the direction of the Italian. It was far from easy on the eye as Kudukhov was intent on not letting the tactician find his range. The aggressiveness saw both boxers penalised in the first as Russo just could not get to grips with the 25-year-old Russian who took the first two rounds.
The Milano orthodox fighter then had to dig deep and spurred on by his corner and the crowd, he started to catch his rival with several body shots as he dragged himself back into the contest. With Kudukhov tiring from his early onslaught, Russo did just enough to edge in the closing stages to win by split decision. It was sheer delight from the Italian when the announcer declared him the winner as he celebrated wildly with corner, with the title in the bag and his undefeated record intact.
Russo, the Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder captain, then lifted the trophy with his team, bringing to a close a fantastic season that saw the Italian squad become WSB Team Champions for the very first time.
A great end to a great evening’s boxing here at the ExCeL Arena and a foretaste of things to come later this Summer . No Irish in action tonight but come August one wondered will ‘Irish eyes be smiling’.?
An excellent venue for the Olympic boxing programmes to come and a top class show superbly organised by World Series Boxing and the AIBA.