The first leg of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) “Clash of Champions” Exhibition extravaganza took place at the Daulet Sporting Complex in Astana, with WSB Season IV Champions Cuba Domadores claiming a 4-1 lead over Season III winners Astana Arlana Kazakhstan.
Kicking the event off was the Light Flyweights, and the 49 kg stars exhibited an exciting 25 minutes of non stop action.
Cuba’s Santiago Amador is a WSB rookie, and was competing against Kazakhstan’s Mardan Berikbayev, who was one of the stand out boxers in his weight class last season.
Berikbayev continued where he left off, as he controlled the contest from the beginning, with the raucous crowd cheering on his every move.
Both boxers were incredibly quick, but it was the Kazakh who edged the bout, despite the obvious potential of the aggressive of Amador, who finished the contest strongly in spite of his loss.
The official result was a unanimous points win for Berikbayev 49:46, 49:46 and 48:47.
More speedsters followed in the second contest, with Cuba’s London 2012 Olympic Champion Robeisy Ramírez facing off against WSB veteran Bagdad Alimbekov.
Ramírez is one of the most exciting boxing prospects in the world, and the star survived a difficult first round to claim victory in his first WSB contest since January.
Alimbekov tried hard, but Ramírez consistently seemed to be playing an eternal game of cat and mouse, as he danced around the ring mixing his reflexes with constant attacks.
The Cuban will be one to watch in Season V, and only dropped one point on one scorecard in the fight.
Next up was a clash between two top five Light Welterweights (64 kg) in Season IV, as the two-time AIBA World Championships Silver medalist Yasnier Toledo took on the underrated Askhat Ualikhanov.
Ualikhanov spoke positively of the fight beforehand, and he wasn’t overwhelmed by his decorated opponent.
The fight was very close, as each fighter dominated certain rounds as they battled through a contest which mostly took place in the centre of the ring.
It was all to play for going into the last round with each fighter capable of winning, but in the end it was Toledo who managed to win, with his more flamboyant shots impressing the judges that little bit more, winning via split decision 49:46 and 48:47 as one judge scored the fight 48:47 for the Astana Arlans fighter.
After the lower weights had fought, the hard hitting Middleweights (75 kg) took to the ring, as Cuba’s Arlen Lopez faced Kazakhstan’s Yerik Alzhanov.
Both were in good form coming into the fight, with Lopez winning two gold medals in recent months, and Alzhanov claimed a well earned silver in June’s Liventsev Memorial Tournament in Minsk.
The key component of this fight was power, with both boxers slugging it out from the first seconds of the fight, in another close 25 minutes which arguably could have gone either way.
With both boxers tiring a little towards the end of the fight, it was Lopez who managed to maintain his composure, eventually winning via split decision 49:46, and 48:47, while one judge gave the impressive Alzhanov the win 48:47.
Closing the night was WSB Heavyweight (91kg) supremo Erislandy Savon, who maintained his undefeated record in the competition with a win over Astana Arlans debutant Almat Serimov.
Savon dominated the first round as he has so many times in the past, but was given an awful shock in the second as Kazakhstan’s Asian Games bronze medallist found his range and won the round on two scorecards.
Unfortunately for the game Serimov it was to be the only rounds he would be given, as Savon went on to control the rest of the fight in his traditional entertaining way.
With the night ending 4-1 in the Cubans favour, all the pressure will be on Astana Arlans to bridge the gap, and try and win the Clash of Champions.
Here is what is on the menu for tomorrow, with some talking points for each fight.
Clash of Titans Leg Two
Cuba Domadores vs Astana Arlans Kazakhstan
10/09/14 (20.25 GMT+6) Watch LIVE for FREE at https://www.YouTube.com/WorldSeriesBoxingTV
At Flyweight (52 kg) Cuba’s Yosbany Veitia makes his debut in the weight class, after winning all eight of his WSB matches last season at Light Flyweight.
He takes on Miras Zhakupov, one of the most experienced and strongest boxers in the WSB flyweight division, who boasts a 6-2 record in the competition.
Despite stepping up a division, Veitia is hopeful of a good performance as he told the WSB website:
“Logically he will have the advantage of being settled at the weight, while I am still in the adaptation process. There are significant differences between each category, and he will have this aspect, but I have the maturity to win the match. The most important for me is to do well, there isn’t any other option.”
Following up one the best pound for pound fighters in WSB, is another, as Lightweight (60 kg) Lazaro Alvarez is up against Astana’s Roman Chshegrinov.
Alvarez won his first six WSB matches last season, before losing in the Finals to WSB legend Albert Selimov, while Chshegrinov made his debut in the competition last season.
The Cuban will be the favourite to win, but the young Kazak is highly rated, and could spring a surprise in front of his home fans.
Gold medal specialist Welterweight (69 kg) Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo won all five of his WSB contests last season, and proved he can adapt to any fight as he mixed it with a variety of styles in Season IV.
His opponent is Madiyar Ashkeyev who became famous at the 2012 Kazakhstan National Championships when he knocked down AIBA World Champion and Asian Games winner star Daniyar Yeleussinov in the quarter-finals.
Although he eventually lost to Yeleussinov by points in that national event, he put himself into the spotlight, and the Astana-based Ashkeyev defeated Kanagat Maralov in the final of the the Konakbayev Tournament in May.
Following that intriguing clash is a Light Heavyweight (81 kg) battle between two of the best in the business.
Julio Cesar De La Cruz won the 2011 AIBA World Boxing Championships in Baku, and defended his title in Almaty last October.
The Cuban went 5-1 in his WSB debut season, and has already beaten the man he faces in Astana, Croatia’s dangerous Hrvoje Sep.
Sep has had 22 WSB fights in his career, and both he and La Cruz reminisced about their fight last season to WSB’s offical website:
JCLC. “It was a strong fight, both looking for the win. I think what helped to win was more strength of character. But it was a fine bout, with courage and bravery, and Sep was a strong opponent.”
HS. “I remember it was a very close fight. I thought I won that fight but the judges announced him as a winner so it was fair and square. I will try to win this time.”
One thing is for sure – don’t blink as you might miss a knockout in that bout, and the same can definitely be said for the last fight of the night, which sees the Super Heavyweights (+91kg) in action, with Cuba’s Yoandi Toirac up against the 6,6 Croatian Filip Hrgovic who fights for Astana Arlans.
Toirac is one of the most exciting prospects in all of boxing, and the youngster will be looking for an impressive performance to rival his compatriot José Ángel Larduet as Cuba’s number one Super Heavyweight.
Hrgovic is a man mountain, going 3-1 in WSB last season with two knockouts, and will be confident of building his impressive WSB career even further against the Cuban.