The World Series of Boxing (WSB) semi-finals begin with defending Champions Cuba Domadores hosting Mexico Guerreros over two legs.
Cuba have lost just one fixture in the history of WSB, and won all 14 matches in the Regular Season, qualifying straight through to this stage of the competition after finishing first in Group A.
They were especially dominant at home in Havana, losing only two individual contests across seven home matches with five 5-0 whitewashes included in that record.
Mexico finished third in Group A and lost twice to Cuba in the group stages, but they head into the last four of WSB with a huge amount of confidence after eliminating Season IV runners-up Azerbaijan Baku Fires 6-4 on aggregate in the quarter-finals.
That two-legged victory came away from home in Guba, and after success against one half of the Season IV finalists, there is plenty of belief in the Mexican squad that they can repeat the triumph once again in Cuba.
Ciudad Deportiva, La Habana is the venue for this semi-final clash, where on Thursday 21st May and Friday 22nd May fans across the world can watch the action free, live and on demand from 20:30 (GMT -4) at AIBABoxingTV.com.
The first leg begins with a fascinating Light flyweight (49 kg) contest between Cuba’s 5-2 18-year-old sensation Joahnys Oscar Argilagos Perez, and Mexican debutant Jose Daniel Rojas Romero.
Although he was ranked fourth at Light flyweight by the end of the group stages, Perez became the first Domadores to lose this season when he was defeated by Mexico’s Joselito Velázquez Altamirano after 20 consecutive Cuban victories.
Despite the difference in WSB experience, Perez should be wary having already lost to Mexican opposition earlier in the campaign, while the underdog Romero has everything to gain in this match.
London 2012 Olympic gold medalist Robeisy Ramirez returns to WSB for the first time since the third week of the campaign as he seeks to improve his season record to 3-0 against Mexico’s Ivan Jesus Delgado.
Ramirez is one of the most exciting boxing prospects in the world, and the slick southpaw is still just 21-years-old.
Delgado becomes the second Mexican boxer to make his debut in this important match, which means his coaches will be hoping that the Bantamweight (56 kg) will be able to hold his own against such an accomplished boxer.
Cuba’s 6-0 Yasniel Toledo finished top of the Light welterweight (64 kg) rankings at the end of the group stages, earning a Rio 2016 Olympic Games quota in the process.
He makes his seventh appearance Season V when he meets Roberto Gomez Zariñana, who is the third Guerrero to make his debut in this fixture.
Toledo is one of the most decorated boxers in a star-studded Cuban team having won an Olympic Games bronze medal and two AIBA World Championships silver medals, and he has excelled in WSB this season with six outstanding victories.
His terrific work rate and wide range of punches frequently causes havoc and panic in the majority of opposition corners, so Zariñana will have to concentrate for every second of their bout.
Arlen Lopez also finished in the Rio 2016 quota places at Middleweight (75 kg), and the 6-1 star has won all three of his home matches for Cuba this season.
His semi-final opponent is Mexico’s Misael Uriel Rodríguez Oliva, who has impressed onlookers this season despite a 2-5 losing record.
Oliva is a come-forward fighter who relies on relentless pressure to disrupt the attacks of his rivals, while Lopez has the power to quell the assault of most fighters in WSB.
The last fight of the first leg features two undefeated Heavyweights (91 kg) who are both eager to avoid losing for the first time this season.
Named the best boxer of Season IV, Cuba’s 7-0 Erislandy Savon has been unbeatable throughout his WSB career, and he mixes exceptional movement with sharp jabs and terrifying hooks.
His excellent form continued through the group stages of the fifth season, which exemplifies the dominant displays he regularly produces in this competition.
Ecuador’s 4-0 Julio Cesar Castillo Torres has won three of his matches for the Guerreros in hostile away territory, and his fluid style could cause Savon problems, as he has mostly faced shorter fighters this season.
Torres proved in his quarter-final clash against Leonid Charnabayeu that he has the ability to change his tactics midway through a fight, which is a huge asset that combines well with his composure in the ring.
This could be the most entertaining fight of the evening, and will hold huge ramifications heading into the second leg.