The much anticipated World Series of Boxing (WSB) knock-out stages finally got underway today with two high-octane encounters on the Asian continent. Astana Arlans faced the tricky Mexico City Geurreros and Venky’s Mumbai Fighters hosted the undefeated Baku Fires in the first leg of these quarter-final showdowns.
Astana Arlans vs. Mexico City Guerreros
Mexican southpaw Elias Emigdio, the top ranked Bantamweight, opened the evening’s proceedings for the Mexico City Guerreros in the Kazak capital when he faced Astana Arlans’ Khabibulla Ismail-Akhunov. Emigdio’s shot selection and quick hands quickly gave him the advantage in a riveting encounter as he triumphed to give the visiting team the early advantage at the Daulet Sports Complex.
In the Lightweight contest, the undefeated 23-year-old local hero Merey Akshalov continued his supreme form and extended his winning streak with a solid performance against the fleet-footed Angel Gutierrez. Akshalov’s calculated approach paid dividends as he dominated each round to win at a canter. Going toe-to-toe throughout the five rounds, it was a question of who landed the most clean shots in the Middleweight contest between up and coming Astana Arlans Kazak Rustam Svayev and Ukrainian hard-hitter Dmytro Mytrofanov. It was the Mexico City Guerreros fighter who took the initiative in that fight with some powerful uppercuts, rocking his opponent several times as the visiting team once again took the lead in the match.
Ramzjon Ahmedov got his personal account for the season up and running and ensured the home team got back on level terms in the match with a performance full of verve that demonstrated his willingness to move forward and be the attacker. Light Heavyweight Ahmedov had fan’s favourite Kennedy Katende on the back foot throughout to record an impressive points victory. Ruslan Myrsatayev was then awarded the Heavyweight contest by Walk-over as Astana Arlans secured a hard-fought 3:2 home victory.
Venky’s Mumbai Fighters vs. Baku Fires
The curtain raiser in India was the Middleweight contest between the Venky’s Mumbai Fighters’ Tomasz Jablonski of Poland against the tall and rangy Belarusian Mikalai Vesialou. Debutant Jablonski fought hard but the savvier 25-year-old Baku Fires orthodox boxer had the upper hand from the early stages as the visiting Azeri outfit went 1-0 up. Sergii Melnyk from the Ukraine then restored parity for the Mumbai Fighters with an aggressive display against the 19-year-old southpaw Vatan Huseynli. Melnyk was unrelenting in the Indian heat, throwing some vicious shots with the straight right making most of the damage.
Five-time AIBA Women’s World Champion Mary Kom was also ringside to cheer on the Mumbai Fighters and handing out the gloves for the home team in the match was Indian boxing icon Akhil Kumar. His compatriot Jitender Kumar though had a tough task in his fight as he faced the WSB Bantamweight No.1 Gairbek Germakhanov. Kumar gave everything he had and had the crowd on their feet in the early rounds with his spirited display but Germakhanov’s know-how and compact style had the Azeri ahead on points coming into the fourth round. Following an accidental clash of heads in that round, Kumar was severely cut on his left eye-brow and the fight was stopped with Germakhanov given the win by split decision on points.
Filipino sensation Charly Suarez then took to the ring for the Mumbai Fighters in the Lightweight showdown of the night as he came up against the experienced 27-yera-old Semen Grivachev. It was tense affair but Suarez connected with some sensational combination punches to get the crowds chanting his name. The exuberant Suarez then grew in confidence and with a spring in his step asserted his authority and hurt Grivachev with some precise shots on his way to a quality victory as the Mumbai Fighters drew themselves back into the match.
With all to fight for, the Heavyweight contest doubled up as the decider. Would the Mumbai Fighters be able to create the surprise of the season so far with a victory over the undefeated Baku Fires? Step up New Zealand’s Uaine Fa. Facing Baku Fires Azeri Haji Murtuzaliyev, Fa used his height to his advantage, keeping his opponent at bay throughout on his way to a comprehensive victory. There was then widespread jubilation at the final bell as Mumbai recorded a famous win and sent the Baku Fires home tasting defeat for the first time. The fans and the Fighters corner were all up on their feet in sheer delight at a momentous result for them.