Hold on to your seats, the quarter-finals have finally arrived. Friday will see the first leg of the much anticipated showdown between the popular Venky’s Mumbai Fighters and the unbeaten Baku Fires.
We learned last season that at this stage of the competition you just cannot predict what will happen. Although the visitors are the overwhelming favourites, Mumbai have come a long way in a short space of time and their starting line-up is in itself very impressive for this match. It promises to be very entertaining to watch.
The winning machine that is Baku Fires stormed through the regular season by winning all ten matches. Topping Group B from the early stages, they never relinquished that position, becoming the only team in the WSB to go undefeated. The experience gained in their first season mixed to extraordinary perseverance has certainly added to this success. Under the careful guidance of Head Coach Gamzat Agayev and General Manager Genzhiyev Rizvan, the Azeri outfit has displayed all the attributes needed for the team to go all the way and take the WSB title.
There is a steely determination in the camp and many view their meticulous approach as the key ingredient to their success so far. Most recently, the Baku Fires proved once again why they are such a force when the squad travelled to Mexico City and beat the Guerreros 3:2 at fortress Foro Polanco. By the end of the regular season, they had ten of their boxers ranked in the top ten of their respective weight categories, with four ranked in the top two and qualifying for the WSB Individual Finals.
Bantamweight Gairbek Germakhanov, who lines up this Friday, is amongst these, having been sensational in his first WSB season, winning all five of his bouts.
Middleweight Heybulla Mursalov is another leading light in the Baku Fires squad. In his six fights, the orthodox 21-year-old only lost once to Michel Tavares and that by a split decision. A few weeks later Mursalov avenged this defeat by overpowering the Frenchman 3:0 in the return fixture. The Azeri boxer will now face the Ukrainian giant Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the Individual Finals at the end of the season.
But it is the Light Heavyweight category that draws the greatest interest within the team as both Azamat Murtuzaliyev and Ramazan Magomedau have made it to the Individual Finals where they will face each other. They are ranked first and second respectively and will meet in the Final. Though these three fighters will not be taking to the ring, they will be waiting in the wings for the second leg.
24-year-old Azeri southpaw Haji Murtuzaliyev is Baku Fires’ best Heavyweight and he will come up this Friday against the giant Uaine Fa of Mumbai Fighters in what promises to be nothing short of explosive.
Yesterday we looked at the Mumbai v Baku quarter final in the World Series of Boxing so today let us look at another quarter final match in this exciting series.That between Mexico City Guerreros and Astana Arlans on Friday.
This promises to be very close when the Mexico City Guerreros, who finished second in Group B, travel to the Kazak capital to do battle with the colossal Astana Arlans. Hot on the heels of the Group A leaders for much of the regular season, the Arlans came so close to topping the table but were eventually undone by their noisy neighbours, Dynamo Moscow. Last season’s beaten finalist will look to take a major step towards semi-final qualification when the Mexican Franchise come to the cauldron of noise that is the Daulet Sports Complex this Friday.
The home team boast an impressive record in the competition and some of their boxers’ displays have really caught the imagination of the fans. The stand-out fixture came in Week 4 when they reserved a hot reception for Moscow, it was nail-biting, edge of your seats drama, with the match decided in the last round of the night’s last fight when Heavyweight Ruslan Myrsatayev found the reserves to defeat giant Sergey Kalchugin. That result set the Arlans on a roll as they recorded five successive victories to put themselves into contention for a top table finish. Eventually their statistics read seven wins in their ten fights, which overall was the equal third best record in the whole competition.
Lining up against the Guerreros in the Bantamweight will be 20-year-old Kazak Khabibulla Ismail-Akhunov, who might not have the best record in the division, but has acquitted himself very well when he faced the big names this season. Quick and agile, he is one for the future. As one of the sport’s growing nations, the production line of talent is the country bodes well for the future. Astana’s Merey Akshalov has been their leading light in the Lightweight category with three wins no losses to his name and he will be strutting his stuff in the ring in the first leg of this quarter-final showdown. Samat Bashenov, the 24-year-old southpaw, is another Lightweight weapon in the Arlans’ arsenal; his confident display against Mumbai’s Charly Suarez will surely put him the frame for the second leg.
Current Middleweight National Champion Rustam Svayev is another young prospect at just 21 years of age; he will be looking to put his previous defeat to bed when he takes to the ring. The two knock-out kings in the division, Miras Bairkhanov and Kanat Slam, both stars in their homeland, will be the muscle to be sent to Mexico for the return fixture.
Struggling for form this season, the Light Heavyweight Uzbek Ramzjon Ahmedov will look to finally kick-start a campaign that has seen him under-perform. He will be hoping to make a big impression. The star and big-name of the team, the current WSB Individual Champion, Abdelhafid Benchabla will be a spectator at home before being unleashed in the Mexican capital. Man-mountain Daniyar Ustembayev could also be used if Astana get an overwhelming result in front of their home crowds.
In the Heavyweights, Astana have the lionheart that is Ruslan Myrsatayev and Algerian powerhouse Chouaib Bouloudinats, who both went undefeated this season. With those two in their armoury they will be hard to beat. The fighting talk though has come from Head Coach Beibut Yeszhanov, a Soviet Union National Flyweight Champion in his heyday, believing firmly that they have the tools required to go one better this season and take that WSB trophy.
The Mexico City Guerreros have had a bit of a rollercoaster season, struggling to find consistency with wins at home, at the venue now dubbed fortress Foro Polanco, and only losses away until Week 6, which was the watershed moment in their season. In fact their 5:0 thrashing of Leipzig Leopards saw them set-off on a four match winning streak that included a sensational away victory against Paris United. They suffered their first home loss against undefeated Baku Fires in the ultimate match of the regular season but pushed the Azeri outfit all the way without their big names.
Continuing the Mexican tradition of producing some of the best fighters in the Bantamweight and Lightweight divisions, the Guerreros ensured that they qualified a representative in each of those categories at the WSB Individual Finals. One of those is 20-year-old rising orthodox Mexican star, Elias Emigdio, who just keeps getting better and better in this competition, making it four wins in four this season, with his overall WSB record now standing at seven wins one loss. His battle in the Individual Finals against Baku’s Germakhanov promises to be nothing short of top drawer. The rangy Juan Romero was another to qualify in impressive style, with three wins that included a demolition of Unal Gulec.
Taking to the ring this Friday in the Middleweight fight will be Ukraine’s Dmytro Mytrofanov who has a lethal hook in his locker, just ask Sefa Karadeniz. Stablemate, Bulgarian Mladen Manev is another heavy-hitter for the Guerreros and will most definitely be the man to dispute the second leg back in Mexico City.
Fan’s favourite, charismatic Swede Kennedy Katende has really set the competition alight with both his fists and his showmanship. He has been a delight to watch and many will be glued to their screens in anticipation of his match this Friday . This match will be too close to call.
As always you can follow all the action on WSB TV via this link :