The World Series of Boxing Season VI Draft was finalised this week in Lausanne, Switzerland, with several franchises seizing the opportunity to heavily strengthen their line-ups ahead of what is set to be another compelling season of boxing’s unique team competition.
The USA Knockouts, Puerto Rico Hurricanes and Caciques de Venezuela were particularly active as they look to close the gap on last year’s champions the Kazakhstan Astana Arlans and beaten finalists the Cuba Domadores.
“We are gearing up for an exciting Season VI of WSB starting in January and I am thrilled to see a wealth of new boxing talent emerging in our competition,” said WSB CEO Karim Bouzidi. “The addition of new franchises and new boxers demonstrates the dynamic development of WSB in key markets across the globe and the growing international appeal of our sport, and I eagerly await the return of this exceptional boxing competition, along with our thousands of fans all over the world.”
The event opened with WSB Commission Chairman Franco Falcinelli welcoming two new franchises making their debuts in Season VI: Uzbekistan Tigers and Turkey Bosphourous. Shortly afterwards, Boxam silver medallist Damian Biacho became the first athlete to be drafted, with the British Lionhearts snapping up the Spanish middleweight talent.
It was a busy morning for the Lionhearts, who also secured the services of Armenia’s Koryun Soghomonyan (52kg), EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championships bronze medalist Petar Belberov (+91kg), Strandja Memorial Tournament winner Radoslav Pantaleev (81kg) and Hungary’s London 2012 Olympic Games quarter-finalist Zoltan Harcsa (75kg).
Even more active were the USA Knockouts, who landed a real coup in the form of Croatia’s super heavyweight star Filip Hrgovic. The former Astana Arlans boxer won all of his Season V contests, helping the team to the championship title and setting himself on course for a place at Rio 2016. Also among the eight new faces added to the Knockouts’ team were India’s red-hot flyweight Gaurav Bidhuri and French light heavyweight Souliman Abdourachidov.
Rafako Hussars Poland will be able to count on the considerable abilities of Ireland’s double-Olympic bronze medalist Patrick Barnes after they drafted in last year’s top light flyweight. Barnes delivered a 7-0 record for Italia Thunder in Season V, and he will be joined by Germany’s promising super heavyweight Florian Schulz, compatriot and 2015 European Games bronze medalist Kastriot Sopa, and Italy’s Riccardo D’Andrea.
France’s top-ranked welterweight Souleymane Cissokho, Colombia’s AMBC American Confederation Champion Jorge Luis Vivas and Germany’s Chemistry Cup winner Leon Bunn were the key names to join Mexico Guerreros, while among the new Caciques de Venezuela are Hector Luis Garcia and Hungary’s former EUBC European Confederation Champion Balazs Bacskai.
The Puerto Rico Hurricanes’ management kept its focus on the traditionally heavily contested upper weight classes of the draft, bringing in the services of Colombia’s Julio Carrillo (81kg), Germany’s Roman Fress (91kg), Armenian Narek Manasyan (+91kg), Ireland’s Dean Gardiner (+91kg) and Mantas Valavicius (+91kg) of Lithuania.
The opening matches of WSB Season VI, with the number of groups expanded from two to four this season in order to accomodate all sixteen teams, will take place in January 2016.