Mumbai inflict first defeat on Baku as Astana survive Mexico test

The much anticipated World Series of Boxing (WSB) knock-out stages finally got underway today with two high-octane encounters on the Asian continent. Astana Arlans faced the tricky Mexico City Geurreros and Venky's Mumbai Fighters hosted the undefeated Baku Fires in the first leg of these quarter-final showdowns.

Astana Arlans vs. Mexico City Guerreros
Mexican southpaw Elias Emigdio, the top ranked Bantamweight, opened the evening's proceedings for the Mexico City Guerreros in the Kazak capital when he faced Astana Arlans' Khabibulla Ismail-Akhunov. Emigdio's shot selection and quick hands quickly gave him the advantage in a riveting encounter as he triumphed to give the visiting team the early advantage at the Daulet Sports Complex.

In the Lightweight contest, the undefeated 23-year-old local hero Merey Akshalov continued his supreme form and extended his winning streak with a solid performance against the fleet-footed Angel Gutierrez. Akshalov's calculated approach paid dividends as he dominated each round to win at a canter. Going toe-to-toe throughout the five rounds, it was a question of who landed the most clean shots in the Middleweight contest between up and coming Astana Arlans Kazak Rustam Svayev and Ukrainian hard-hitter Dmytro Mytrofanov. It was the Mexico City Guerreros fighter who took the initiative in that fight with some powerful uppercuts, rocking his opponent several times as the visiting team once again took the lead in the match.

Ramzjon Ahmedov got his personal account for the season up and running and ensured the home team got back on level terms in the match with a performance full of verve that demonstrated his willingness to move forward and be the attacker. Light Heavyweight Ahmedov had fan's favourite Kennedy Katende on the back foot throughout to record an impressive points victory. Ruslan Myrsatayev was then awarded the Heavyweight contest by Walk-over as Astana Arlans secured a hard-fought 3:2 home victory.
Watch the match again on WSB TV

Venky's Mumbai Fighters vs. Baku Fires
The curtain raiser in India was the Middleweight contest between the Venky's Mumbai Fighters' Tomasz Jablonski of Poland against the tall and rangy Belarusian Mikalai Vesialou. Debutant Jablonski fought hard but the savvier 25-year-old Baku Fires orthodox boxer had the upper hand from the early stages as the visiting Azeri outfit went 1-0 up. Sergii Melnyk from the Ukraine then restored parity for the Mumbai Fighters with an aggressive display against the 19-year-old southpaw Vatan Huseynli. Melnyk was unrelenting in the Indian heat, throwing some vicious shots with the straight right making most of the damage.

Five-time AIBA Women's World Champion Mary Kom was also ringside to cheer on the Mumbai Fighters and handing out the gloves for the home team in the match was Indian boxing icon Akhil Kumar. His compatriot Jitender Kumar though had a tough task in his fight as he faced the WSB Bantamweight No.1 Gairbek Germakhanov. Kumar gave everything he had and had the crowd on their feet in the early rounds with his spirited display but Germakhanov's know-how and compact style had the Azeri ahead on points coming into the fourth round. Following an accidental clash of heads in that round, Kumar was severely cut on his left eye-brow and the fight was stopped with Germakhanov given the win by split decision on points.

Filipino sensation Charly Suarez then took to the ring for the Mumbai Fighters in the Lightweight showdown of the night as he came up against the experienced 27-yera-old Semen Grivachev. It was tense affair but Suarez connected with some sensational combination punches to get the crowds chanting his name. The exuberant Suarez then grew in confidence and with a spring in his step asserted his authority and hurt Grivachev with some precise shots on his way to a quality victory as the Mumbai Fighters drew themselves back into the match.

With all to fight for, the Heavyweight contest doubled up as the decider. Would the Mumbai Fighters be able to create the surprise of the season so far with a victory over the undefeated Baku Fires? Step up New Zealand's Uaine Fa. Facing Baku Fires Azeri Haji Murtuzaliyev, Fa used his height to his advantage, keeping his opponent at bay throughout on his way to a comprehensive victory. There was then widespread jubilation at the final bell as Mumbai recorded a famous win and sent the Baku Fires home tasting defeat for the first time. The fans and the Fighters corner were all up on their feet in sheer delight at a momentous result for them.
Watch the match again on WSB TV

With these two quarter-finals both on a knife-edge, there will be all to fight for in the return legs next weekend.

Mumbai Fighters VS Baku Fires on 2 March 2012

Hold on to your seats, the quarter-finals have finally arrived. Friday will see the first leg of the much anticipated showdown between the popular Venky's Mumbai Fighters and the unbeaten Baku Fires. We learned last season that at this stage of the competition you just cannot predict what will happen. Although the visitors are the overwhelming favourites, Mumbai have come a long way in a short space of time and their starting line-up is in itself very impressive for this match. It promises to be very entertaining to watch.

The winning machine that is Baku Fires stormed through the regular season by winning all ten matches. Topping Group B from the early stages, they never relinquished that position, becoming the only team in the WSB to go undefeated. The experience gained in their first season mixed to extraordinary perseverance has certainly added to this success. Under the careful guidance of Head Coach Gamzat Agayev and General Manager Genzhiyev Rizvan, the Azeri outfit has displayed all the attributes needed for the team to go all the way and take the WSB title.

There is a steely determination in the camp and many view their meticulous approach as the key ingredient to their success so far. Most recently, the Baku Fires proved once again why they are such a force when the squad travelled to Mexico City and beat the Guerreros 3:2 at fortress Foro Polanco. By the end of the regular season, they had ten of their boxers ranked in the top ten of their respective weight categories, with four ranked in the top two and qualifying for the WSB Individual Finals.

Bantamweight Gairbek Germakhanov, who lines up this Friday, is amongst these, having been sensational in his first WSB season, winning all five of his bouts. Get to know more of the impressive 27-year-old Germakhanov in this straightforward interview (Click HERE to read it) .

Middleweight Heybulla Mursalov is another leading light in the Baku Fires squad. In his six fights, the orthodox 21-year-old only lost once to Michel Tavares and that by the split decision. A few weeks later Mursalov avenged this defeat by overpowering the Frenchman 3:0 in the return fixture. The Azeri boxer will now face the Ukrainian giant Sergiy Derevyanchenko in the Individual Finals at the end of the season. But it is the Light Heavyweight category that draws the greatest interest within the team as both Azamat Murtuzaliyev and Ramazan Masgomedau have made it to the Individual Finals where they will face each other. They are ranked first and second respectively and will meet in the Final. Though these three fighters will not be taking to the ring, they will be waiting in the wings for the second leg.

24-year-old Azeri southpaw Haji Murtuzaliyev is Baku Fires' best Heavyweight and he will come up this Friday against the giant Uaine Fa of Mumbai Fighters in what promises to be nothing short of explosive.

Unlike their all conquering opponents, the Venky's Mumbai Fighters have had a difficult introduction to life in the WSB and struggled early on due to their lack of experience. The one thing though that you cannot reproach them is that they have really brought a team spirit to the competition, a charisma that has really captured the imagination of fans not only in India but worldwide. Although the Indian team has not really had the best of results, everyone is equal in the quarter-finals and who knows what can happen when the fans pack the T-Box Mobile Arena at the Inorbit Mall to lend their support. Winning four of their group matches earned them fourth place in Group A but the Fighters have been training extra hard since then to prove that their presence in the play-offs is more than deserved. Clearly the underdogs in this match, they will be looking to cause a huge upset.

Mumbai's home match against Bangkok Elephants will remain one of the most memorable for the Indian Franchise, with Lightweight Filipino Charly Suarez creating a sensation with a thunderous knockout in his debut fight. He will be taking to the ring this Friday where he will face the experienced Semen Grivachev in what will surely be an extremely tactical battle.

Heavyweight Uaine Fa quickly became the Indian team's star man after delivering a thrilling boxing masterclass when he dismantled Arslanbek Makhmudov of Dynamo Moscow. Fa recalls this fight in an insightful interview (Click HERE to read it). He will be once again looking to extend his unblemish WSB record with a win against Murtuzaliyev.

This will be an intriguing match between two teams eager to continue their WSB journey. The Venky's Mumbai Fighters hope their big guns do the business in front of their home crowds as Baku Fires look to continue their winning streak. Jitender Kumar will face the biggest test of his career when he comes face-to-face with Bantamweight king Germakhanov. The Middleweight contest will see Belarusian hardman Mikalai Vesialou face Mumbai newcomer Tomasz Jablonski of Poland. The Light Heavyweight contest will see Ukrainian powerhouse Sergii Melnyk come up against the fledgling 19-year-old Azeri prospect, southpaw Vatan Heseynli. This promises to be one hell of a match. Don't miss any of the action with the match broadcast LIVE on ESPN Star Sports in India, AZTV in Azerbaijan and

Article posted on 02.03.2012

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