Having lost their opening match of the new season to defending champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, the Azerbaijan Baku Fires face yet another stiff challenge from across the Caspian Sea on Friday night as they take on Group D rivals and WSB newcomers Uzbek Tigers.
The Tigers delivered a huge statement of intent in their opening fixture, breezing past the Puerto Rico Hurricanes 5-0 in San Juan, but the fresh franchise is likely to find a considerably more robust side standing in their way in Baku.
The hosts’ Magomed Ibiyev is no stranger to World Series of Boxing, but the opening bout of the night against Abrorjon Kodirov will be his first at flyweight. Kodirov himself only made the move up from light flyweight two years ago, and he has since silver and bronze medals at the Uzbekistan National Championships.
The Fires’ Umakhanov Memorial Tournament silver medalist Khasan Arsunkaev will be making his WSB debut in the evening’s second bout, up against one of the world’s most promising lightweight boxers, the 2015 AIBA World Championship bronze medalist Elnur Abduraimov.
Azerbaijan Baku Fires’ Belarusian boxer Yauheni Ramashkevich will face Uzbek Tigers’ Dostonbek Turdiyev in the welterweight class, and another Belarus import, the London 2012 Olympian Mikhail Dauhaliavets, can expect a crunching match against the Tigers’ Shukhrat Abdullayev, gold medalist at the 2011 Asian Confederation Boxing Championships in Incheon.
Last into the Baku ring for what could be the deciding bout of the night will be Azeri 26-year-old Arslanbek Makhmudov, a seasoned WSB boxer with several big victories, including that of two-time AIBA World Champion Mahammadrasul Majidov, already to his name. The super heavyweight will take on Uzbekistan’s veteran Sardor Abdullayev, who made his WSB debut back in Season I for that year’s losing finalists, the Astana Arlans.
Morocco Atlas Lions on the prowl for first home victory in WSB Season VI against British Lionhearts in Casablanca
The Morroco Atlas Lions will be looking for their first win of WSB Season VI on Friday night as they host the British Lionhearts in their second Group B match in Casablanca. The Atlas Lions had a tricky opening night in Week 2 going down 4-1 against Mexico Guerreros in Aguascalientes, while the British side will be hoping to build on an impressive away win against USA Knockouts in Miami.
First in the ring, British Lionhearts’ EUBC European Confederation Boxing Championship silver medallist Muhammad Ali will be hoping to keep the hosts’ smaller, more attacking London 2012 Olympian Abdelali Daraa at bay, with both flyweights eager to give their sides an early lead on the night.
Lightweights Abdellah Boudrar and Luke McCormack were both involved in WSB Season V and will use their experience to outmanoeuvre one-another in what looks like being a close contest, before the hosts’ imperious Mohammed Rabii steps up in the welterweight battle against Lionhearts’ powerful Haizel Tabiri-Essuman. The dangerous Rabii, with a gold-medal performance at the 2015 AIBA World Championships to go with last season’s 7-0 undefeated WSB record, has the luxury of boxing with the freedom of a man in form and with his Rio 2016 qualification already assured.
African Confederation bronze medallist Hassan Saada lives and trains in Casablanca and will try to use his physical advantage against British Lionhearts’ newcomer Thomas Hart in the fourth match of the evening, before a potentially pivotal super heavyweight bout rounds off the action. Frazer Clarke will fancy his chances against local southpaw Ahmed Bourous, but by that stage the Atlas Lions may already have put victory out of reach for the visitors.
USA Knockouts seek first win of season against Group B rivals Mexico Guerreros
USA Knockouts will need to bounce back from the disappointment of their last-minute defeat to British Lionhearts in Week 2 if they are to register their first WSB win of Season VI against Mexico Guerreros on Friday night in Miami. Semi-finalists last season, the Guerreros showed their calibre with a 4-1 win over Morocco Atlas Lions a fortnight ago, and will head to Florida confident of being able to take all three points south of the border.
The hosts are able to start strongly, with their 2015 Pan-American Games Flyweight Champion Antonio Vargas cutting his WSB teeth against Guerreros’ Orlando Huitzil in the first bout of the night. After four good wins in Season V, Huitzil will also have nothing to fear going in to what looks like being a very close-fought opening contest.
Knockouts’ Carlos Balderas also won four contests last time out and is the first American boxer to qualify for Rio 2016. The 19 year-old lightweight will be hoping to exact some sweet revenge on Lindolfo Delgado after the Mexican star defeated him at the quarter-final stage of the Pan-American Games in Toronto last year.
Paul Kroll was a revelation at welterweight during the US National Olympic Trials two months ago, and he will be hoping to earn some crucial international experience as he opens up his WSB account against Mexico Guerreros’ Francisco Armenta, himself a silver medallist at the Independence Cup in the Dominican Republic one year ago.
Another US National Olympic Trials winner Jonathan Esquivel will try to prevent Mexico’s Rogelio Romero earning himself a fourth WSB-career win, before the night closes out in style with a tight super heavyweight battle predicted between USA’s Brandon Lynch and the Guerreros’ Elvis Garcia.
Leading up to the Group B showdown will be two star-studded women’s exhibition matches between the USA and Mexico. American flyweight legend and Rio 2016 Test Event winner Virginia Fuchs steps into the ring against Mexican champion Sulem Urbina, followed by a showdown between US Olympic Trials Lightweight Champion Mikaela Mayer and Pan-American bronze medalist Victoria Torres. Reigning Olympic Games, Pan-American Games and AIBA World Champion Claressa Shields will be ringside supporting her teammates for the evening’s exciting curtain-raiser.