Astana Arlans Kazakhstan have once again shown why they are the most successful team in the history of WSB, bouncing back from a Week 6 away defeat at Uzbek Tigers to top Group D and set up a home quarter-final against Venezuela Caciques on Friday and Saturday in Shymkent.
Astana Arlans have never failed to reach the semi-final stages, but they face a rejuvenated Venezuelan team that has achieved a successful balance of youth and experience so far this campaign, and here are two battles that could tip the tie either way:
Kazakhstan team captain and two-time Team Champion Samat Bashenov’s WSB career reaches back to Season II, with the light welterweight compiling an enviable 14-5 record over the six campaigns to date. The 28-year-old makes a welcome return to the team following an injury, and will be hoping to lead the Arlans to his fifth consecutive semi-final.
Bashenov’s opponent in Shymkent will be Luis Arcon, himself a seasoned WSB campaigner who ensured his qualification for Rio 2016 at last month’s AIBA Olympic Qualification Event. Arcon boasts a solid 5-4 record in the competition and as he lands in Kazakhstan in great shape, a win over the Arlans’ team captain would be his biggest to date.
Kazakh Azamat Issakulov steps into the Arlans team at flyweight in place of Olzhas Sattibayev for the Quarter-Final match-up. With just one WSB contest under his belt, a Season V win over Argentina Condors’ Ricardo Ibarra, Issakulov will be hoping to emulate the form that saw him take the 2015 Feliks Stamm Memorial title.
Venezuela’s reigning American Confederation Champion Yoel Finol will be confident of his chances despite a surprise defeat against Argentina Condors’ Cristian Roda in Buenos Aires back in Week 3. The 19-year-old won three contests during Season V and has a 4-3 overall record in WSB, offering some stiff opposition to the home favourite Issakulov.
Uzbek Tigers’ big names hold key to unlocking Russian Boxing Team’s perfect record in Season VI Quarter-Finals
One of the most eagerly awaited matches of the Season VI Quarter-Finals sees Russian Boxing Team host Uzbek Tigers in the city of Ulyanovsk on Friday and Saturday evenings. The Russians were the only team to finish the preliminaries with a 100% record, while the Tigers have made a hugely impressive start to their WSB story, leading Group D until the final week to ensure a Play-Off place at the first attempt. The Uzbek side has the strength in depth to push the Russians all the way, but here are some of the key battles that could make or break the tie:
Russian Boxing Team’s 24-year-old Bator Sagaluev won gold at the 2015 European Games and has been undefeated so far this campaign, defeating Venezuela’s Yonny Calderones and Argentina’s Nicolas Alfonso to help his team to the Play-Offs. With a reputation for exquisite right hooks and TKO wins, the home crowd will be baying for the light flyweight to deliver the goods once again.
Sagaluev’s opponent, however, is ASBC Asian Champion and 2016 Olympic qualifier Hasanboy Dusmatov, who boasts an unbeaten 9-0 record in WSB having previously boxed with Ukraine Otamans. Dusmatov won the previous encounter between the pair three years ago, and could repeat the feat in Russia.
Russian Team’s Albert Karibian is a promising young boxer who defeated Rafako Hussars Poland’s Damian Kiwior on his WSB debut in Szczecin earlier this season and then maintained an unbeaten record with wins over Argentina Condors’ Maximilian Ocampo and Venezuela Caciques’ Victor Pinango.
The welterweight will have to overcome one of the most improved boxers in the category, Uzbek National Champion Shakhram Giyasov, a man who, despite having to make his WSB debut in this high-pressure situation, has enough international AIBA Open Boxing experience to trouble the home boxer, including gold at the recent AIBA Asia and Oceania Olympic Qualification Event in Qian’an.