Last stop before the final in London

Lausanne, Switzerland, 29 March 2012: Last stop, Friday sees the conclusion of the exciting World Series of Boxing semi-finals as Baku Fires do battle against Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder and Dynamo Moscow face Astana Arlans in the return legs. This promises to be two explosive fixtures with the teams going all out to claim a place for the Team Final on 2 May at the ExCeL in London.

Baku Fires vs. Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder (aggregate score 0:5)

No one had predicted such an emphatic scoreline for the Italian outfit when these two teams met in the first leg in Milan. It was an unforgettable night for the Thunder, but one surely to erase from memory for Baku, who had been so strong during the whole season but somehow seemed to come unstuck during this most crucial match. With the Azeri outfit having worked so hard to get to this point and with such an array of talent within their squad, many considered them favourites to go all the way. To readdress the balance from their first leg deficit, the home team now needs to win all five fights to force the sudden death bout. It will be an uphill battle but if any team can do it, surely it is the team from Azerbaijan.

In the opening Bantamweight bout, the impressive 21-year-old Russian Magomed Kurbanovlines-up for Baku Fires, having won his two previous bouts. He will face the 2008 Olympic Games bronze medallist Veaceslav Gojan from Moldova, who boasts an impressive international pedigree. It will be an intriguing contest and could define how the evening progresses.

Following on from this match-up, Baku’s Isa Isayev and Juan Javier Carrasco Herrera go head-to-head in the Lightweight tussle. Isayev has only fought once this season but there have been some extremely positive scouting reports about this emerging 21-year-old Azeri talent. The local southpaw will face the quick-mover from Argentina, who at just 19 years of age has enjoyed quite some success already. This will be a fight between two young men trying to make a name for themselves in this competition.

The spectators will be eagerly awaiting the Heybulla Mursalov vs. Sergiy Derevyanchenkofight. This Middleweight contest will be an exact replica of the Individual Championships final with these two having the opportunity of getting acquainted in the ring before the big show this June. Milano’s Derevyanchenko is undefeated in his eleven career WSB fights, with four of those wins coming by TKO and he is also last season’s WSB Champion following some terrific displays. It will be a tall order for Mursalov but as the second ranked boxer in this division, if anyone can challenge Derevyanchenko, then it must be the calculating 21-year-old orthodox Azeri. This is by far the bout of the evening.

After his hard-fought win in the quarter-finals against Mumbai’s Paul Koon, the imposing 195cm frame of 26-year-old Ukranian Denys Poyatsyka will once again get the opportunity of showing his worth to the Baku Fires. The Heavyweight will face Milano’s Benjey Zimmerman, who will be fighting for the first time this season. The popular orthodox from the Netherlands Antilles is a deceptively quick puncher for his size so Poyatsyka will have to be at his best if he hopes to defeat his rival.

Dynamo Moscow vs. Astana Arlans (2:3)

This one on the other hand is delicately poised; it will be a real nail-biter in the Russian capital. Astana Arlans travel with a slender lead following an impressive performance in the first leg. They will remember though that when they visited Moscow during the regular season they were resoundingly beaten 5:0 by a rampant Dynamo. Both teams will be determined to progress to the Team Final so expect some enthralling fights in this one.

AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 bronze medallist Anvar Yusunov is a lightning quick southpaw from Tajikistan who has rewarded Moscow with three wins in his Bantamweight contests so far this season. He will hope to be able to add another victory to that count when he faces 24-year-old Rafikjon Sultonov from Uzbekistan. Yusunov has both the reach advantage and the experience to overawe his opponent, though the last time these two met, Sultonov was the one to triumph. So there is a lot at stake here, not only a vital win for their team but pride as well.

Top ranked Lightweight, Russian Adlan Abdurashidov, has really come to the fore this season, taking four wins for Dynamo Moscow and booking in style his place for the Individual Championships. This 21-year-old orthodox fighter already has some big names as scalps, the most notable one being Milano’s Valentino, but he will face the biggest test of this campaign against last season’s top ranked boxer in the division, Yerzhan Mussafirov. This clash will see sparks fly as Abdurashidov looks to consolidate his position as the best Lightweight whereas Mussafirov will want to prove to his team mates that he was not a one-season wonder. It will be a riveting contest.

28-year-old Russian Maxim Gazizov will have his hands full when he takes to the ring for Dynamo Moscow, as he will be pitted against knock-out sensation Kanat Slam in the Middleweight fight. Gazizov’s only defeat this season has come against the division’s top man, Derevyanchenko. Pride of Kazakhstan Slam has a two win two losses record compared to his five-one in the previous campaign but the noise from the Arlans camp is that he is hitting form at the just the right time so expect this one to be electric.

Unbeaten Ukrainian Oleksandr Gvozdyk is an extremely tall fighter for a Light Heavyweight and he will be trying to use this to his advantage when he faces Algerian superstar and WSB Individual Champion Abdelhafid Benchabla. Moscow’s Gvozdyk is a two-time National Champion and a veteran of two AIBA World Boxing Championships and at 24 years old is still developing. Benchabla is technically one of the best fighters in the whole competition and knows just how to win with a record of eleven wins and one loss during his two WSB seasons so far. Following an unexpected loss in his first fight this season, which he blamed on the wrong shoes, Benchabla has since bulldozed his way past all of his opponents, and has just got better coming into this critical time. Astana have looked to him for inspiration and lately he has provided them with just that. This one is guaranteed to get all boxing fans out of their seats.

Astana Arlans’s other Algerian is Chouaib Bouloudinats, a powerful and skilful Heavyweight that has really matured this season, adopting a more clinical and measured approach to his fights. This has seen him take three wins in as many bouts up to now. To face him, Dynamo Moscow will line-up the young orthodox Russian Vitaly Kudukhov, who can beat anyone on his day. When it comes to Heavyweight contests, this is one you will not want to take your eyes off.

If Dynamo Moscow wins this tie 3:2, then both teams will be equal on aggregate, forcing a Lightweight sudden death bout to decide what team makes it to the final. If so, the responsibility will be laid upon the shoulders of Eduard Husainov for Moscow and the Arlans’Adlet Yegizekov. Both fighters have the same record in this competition with one win and one loss apiece so it will be very evenly matched.

Moscow to face Milano in showpiece final

Lausanne, Switzerland, 30 March 2012 – After this Friday’s action, there were only two teams left in the competition, with the penultimate round of matches before the season finale deciding who would battle it out for the coveted WSB Team trophy. Dynamo Moscow hosted Astana Arlans, looking to overturn a slender 3:2 deficit, and Baku Fires faced with the impossible against the Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder, having lost 5:0 in the first leg.

Dynamo Moscow vs. Astana Arlans

It was the fourth and final instalment in the clash of the Eastern titans saga as Moscow reserved a hot reception for Astana in a winner takes all match at the Basket-Hall in the heart of the Russian capital. Delicately poised from the first leg, this was anyone’s match and with so much at stake, there were some nerves to settle.

Dynamo Moscow got off to a flyer as Anvar Yusunov ensured the Russian outfit drew level in the tie as the 25-year-old southpaw demonstrated just why he won a bronze medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011, with an electrifying performance that delighted the home supporters. The Tajik was on fire, hungry for victory from the onset of the fight, unleashing several precise combination punches that Astana’s Rafikjon Sultunov just had no reply to. It was the perfect fight from Yusunov, who dominated proceedings from the centre of the ring throughout, never giving his rival a moment’s rest to take all rounds on all judges’ scorecards.

Buoyed by the performance of his teammate, top ranked Lightweight Adlan Abdurashidovkept up the intensity levels when he took to the ring, and with the boisterous crowd behind him, he furiously unleashed on last season’s best fighter in the division, Yerzhan Mussafirov, who could not find a reply to the unrelenting assaults of his opponent. Moscow’s Abdurashidov exemplified this spirit Dynamo has shown throughout this campaign, never allowing the man he faced to find a rhythm. Mussafirov was dethroned and replaced by his ambitious successor. WSB fans will be impatient now to see the 21-year-old Russian Abdurashidov in action during the Individual Championships on 9 June.

With Moscow now in the ascendancy and having taken the lead on aggregate, Middleweight Maxim Gazizov proved his pedigree by matching Astana’s WSB knock-out king Kanat Slamin the early stages. Gazizov was intelligent in his approach, using the jab to great effect to keep his rival at bay before working the body to great effect, taking the first two rounds. Slam, the poster boy of his team, was being urged by his corner to go all-out in order to stem the domination of the Moscow fighters. Positive in his approach, the 27-year-old Kazak took the third round with the brilliant use of the left hook. This was in vain as Gazizov stepped up a level in the fourth to take the round. Slam dominated the fifth but it was too little too late as Dynamo now had a two fight advantage.

5:3 down on aggregate, Astana now needed to find inspiration to get back into the match with nothing less than a victory needed to keep their chances of progression alive. Their weapon was Light Heavyweight Champion, Abdelhafid Benchabla. The 25-year-old Algerian is one of the most accomplished fighters in the competition and after three rounds against Dynamo’sOleksandr Gvozdyk, it looked like the lightning-quick Astana Arlans orthodox was on track to get his team back in the match. The tall Ukrainian had other ideas; intent on keeping his unbeaten WSB record intact, the 24-year-old went on the attack, throwing everything he had in his locker as he stormed to victory by taking the last two rounds. Gvozdyk was now the hero as he ensured the overall victory for Dynamo Moscow.

With the Heavyweight bout now just a formality, a deflated Chouaib Bouloudinats took to the ring for Astana looking to salvage some pride for the visiting team. The Algerian could just not cope with the 22-year-old Russian Vitaly Kudukhov and after taking three counts in the first round, the fight was over within minutes as Dynamo Moscow recorded an emphatic 5:0 victory to progress to the final. The Russian outfit looked irrepressible and it will take a lot to stop them from taking that trophy in London.

Watch match again

Baku Fires vs. Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder

Having recorded such a comprehensive win in the first leg, all Milano needed from their visit to the Azeri capital was to win one of their fights against Baku Fires at the Olympic Sports Centre ‘Serdechi’ to ensure their progression to the WSB Team Final in London.

Unfortunately for the home team, rising star and AIBA World Boxing Championships Baku 2011 silver medallist Teymur Mammadov was forced to withdraw just hours before his Light Heavyweight fight which made it impossible for Baku Fires to draw level in the tie, assuring then the overall victory for Milano.

Following this news, Baku Fires then withdrew their 26-year-old Ukrainian Heavyweight Denys Poyatsyka, who had been struggling with an injury himself. The Italian outfit then regrettably followed suit as they did not want to aggravate the hand injury that Middleweight king Sergiy Derevyanchenko had been carrying for weeks, so the night only showcased two fights.

In the Bantamweight contest, Russian Magomed Kurbanov put in a clinic as he overwhelmed Milano’s Veaceslav Gojan from the first bell. It was an extremely controlled display by the 21-year-old Baku Fires orthodox fighter as he dictated proceedings from start to finish and he took every round to triumph in style. Kurbanov extended his season record to three wins no losses. Keep an eye out for him next season.

Isa Isayev is another product of the Azeri conveyor belt and at 21 years of age, this exciting southpaw seems to have the world at his feet. The Baku Fires Lightweight was sensational against his younger opponent, the Argentine Juan Javier Carrasco Herrera. Isayev was fast and furious as he hounded down his rival throughout the bout to take each round on all three judges’ scorecards.

Watch match again

So once again Baku Fires go out at the semi-final stages. They will now be fully focused on getting the best preparation for next season where they will be gunning for the title. On the other hand, Milano will be delighted to have made it to the showpiece final where their glitz and glamour will surely have many fans rooting for them to win it. Do not miss the WSB Team Final on 2 May and the Individual Championships on 9 June, both at the ExCeL, London, at the heart of the Olympic City.

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