The chase to become the first team in World Series of Boxing history to win a third star ended with a brilliant Final in Astana on Saturday evening, as the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan fought back to a quite brilliant win in Astana.
Having taken a convincing lead, the Arlans allowed the Domadores back into the match and to the brink of victory, before another spirited comeback forced the Tie-Break, in which Flyweight Olzhas Bainiyazov earned himself hero status in Kazakhstan by delivering the crucial victory and earning his side a remarkable 6-5 victory.
Arlans make confident start
Temirtas Zhussupov and Johanys Argilagos were the first boxers into the ring at Light Flyweight (49kg), and both looked focussed on getting their team off to the perfect start. Argilagos kept his guard high and solid, using that strong base to fire off some flashing rights, while Zhussupov, not wanting to overcommit, was reduced to chopping rights to test his opponent’s reflexes. Two rounds down, the Cuban came out stronger in the third, but after edging a scrappy fourth, it was the Kazakh who made it through to give the Arlans a precious lead.
The evening’s Bantamweight (56kg) bout then saw Arlans’ Ilyas Suleimanov take on Javier Ibanez. The Cuban’s straight right caused problems from the outset while Suleimanov measured his opponent and unleashed some aggressive combinations of his own, but the impact of the Kazakh’s punches always looked greater than those of Ibanez, leaving the Cuban chasing the bout and the Arlans found themselves 2-0 ahead.
The third bout saw Anton Pinchuk go toe-to-toe with Erislandy Savon, two highly experienced Heavyweights (91kg) always capable of the spectacular. The first round was a low-key affair as the boxers sized each other up and looked for their rhythm, but Savon came out more aggressively in the second, landing some heavy jabs and then opening up further to seize the initiative each time Pinchuk came forward and secure a unanimous decision.
Domadores power back into contention
The Light Welterweight (64kg) pair of Dilmurat Mizhitov and Andy Cruz then entered the arena with the score at 2-1, and put on an entertaining show from the first bell as Cruz quickly looked to stamp his authority on the bout. After two straightforward rounds for the Cuban, Mizhitov came back into the bout to caused Cruz some problems, but the comeback proved short-lived as Cruz responded well to the Kazakh’s aggression to level the scores with a split-decision win.
The Astana Arlans’ young Middleweight talent Abilkan Amankul looked to have a huge task to overcome World and Olympic Champion Arlen Lopez but used his speed brilliantly and amassed precious points as the Cuban looked for the spectacular finish. That approach earned Amankul a slender advantage after three rounds, but Lopez came back brilliantly and tied all three cards going in to the fifth before delivering a decisive final round and put Cuba into a 3-2 lead at the halfway stage.
Cubans edge closer to historic win
Cuba’s highly decorated team captain Julio Cesar La Cruz began the second half of the match against a newcomer to the WSB in Season VII, Arman Rysbek, but the Kazakh wasn’t intimidated by opponent nor occasion as he surprised La Cruz in the opening exchanges. That was as good as it got for Rysbek, however, as La Cruz clicked into his hypnotic rhythm, proving literally untouchable for long periods and delivering his trademark counter-raids to coast to a unanimous points win.
Yosbany Veitia then put the Cuba Domadores within touching distance of a historic third title with a controlled performance against Olzhas Sattibayev at Flyweight (52kg) With the bout evenly balanced after three rounds, it was Veitia who pushed on with more conviction, fending off the Kazakh and scoring more freely to give Cuba a 5-2 advantage.
Arlans dig deep to keep hopes alive
It wasn’t to be Yoandry Toirac to deliver the crucial extra point, however, the Super heavyweight (+91kg) given a thorough examination by Arlans’ Olzhas Bukayev, whose sheer determination to keep his team’s hopes alive helped him through to a rousing victory that had the crowd back on their feet and the Arlans back in contention.
The Domadores were then able to call upon the skill of triple World Champion Lazaro Alvarez, and it was a classic Lightweight (60kg) contest that played out against the resilient Zakir Safiullin. The Kazakh looked to take the tie to his opponent at every opportunity, but Alvarez’ speed and precision was always a threat, the sheer frequency of punches giving him the edge. The tie’s balance shifted completely in the second half as Alvarez tired, and it was Safiullin who conjured up a spirited finish to bring his team right back into the match.
Arlans force the Tie-Break
Two years ago, Aslanbek Shymberganov defeated Roniel Iglesias to earn the Arlans their second WSB title, and it was fitting that the two Welterweights (69kg) should meet again with the trophy on the line. The Kazakh started brighter, forcing Iglesias onto the back foot with his long, rangy punches and huge body blows to carve out an advantage after three rounds, and as Iglesias chased the bout, Shymberganov simply extended his advantage to force a Tie-Break.
That left the Season VII title to be decided by the Flyweights (52kg) Olzhas Bainiyazov and Frank Zaldivar, and the two rose to the occasion as they looked to impress the Judges early on. It was Bainiyazov who landed the more frequent, eye-catching blows to assume an early lead and even as Zaldivar came in closer and started to load up, freeing up his hands to try and turn the tide, the Kazakh was able to find an extra gear and power through to a convincing victory that earned the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan the Season VII Championship Title.