British Lionhearts defeat Kazakhstan

The British Lionhearts have made the final of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) for the first time following a dominant 7-3 victory over the reigning champions, Astana Arlans of Kazakhstan at York Hall in London.

Leading 3-2 from Thursday’s first leg, the Lionhearts guaranteed their passage to the final with a 4-1 victory on the night and a 7-3 aggregate as wins by Luke McCormack, Frazer Clarke and overseas selections Koryun Soghomonyan of Armenia and Bulgaria’s Radoslav Pantaleev overwhelmed a strong Kazhak team.

A meeting with last year’s beaten finalists the Cuba Domodores awaits the Lionhearts in the final which will be held on Saturday 4 June 2016 in Uzbekistan.

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It marked a triumphant day for boxing in Great Britain which also saw Nicola Adams become World Champion in the AIBA Women’s World Championships in Kazakhstan.

Rob McCracken, Performance Director of GB Boxing and Head Coach of the British Lionhearts said: “To defeat the defending champions and make the final against one of the super-powers of WSB is a superb achievement by the whole team. The Astana Arlans are extremely tough so to win 7-3 is a fantastic result and the boxers should be extremely proud of what they have done over these last two nights at York Hall.

“It has been a very good season for us and all of the boxers that have represented the Lionhearts have performed well and contributed to the success we have achieved. I would also like to thank our overseas boxers who have been fantastic, especially in the quarters and semi-finals where they have played a very important role in enabling us to reach the final.”

Sitting on a 3-2 lead from the previous evening, the Lionhearts started in fine style as Koryun Soghomonyan of Armenia unanimously defeated Azamat Issakulov at flyweight.

Another impressive performance from Luke McCormack, who was too sharp and elusive for Zakie Safiullin in the lightweight contest, made it 5-2 and put the Lionhearts on the cusp of victory as he emulated twin brother, Pat, who won at light-welterweight in Thursday’s first leg.

A split decision defeat for Josh Kelly on his WSB debut against the impressive Aslanbek Shymbergenov in the welterweight contest kept the match alive.

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But all hopes of a comeback by the Astan Arlans were extinguished when Radoslav Pantaleev from Bulgaria won the light-heavyweight contest to give the Lionhearts an unassailable 6-3 lead.

It was left to Frazer Clarke to put the icing on the cake however the super-heavyweight did not have it all his own way.

The Burton mad had to climb off the canvas, after catching a good left hook by Kamshybek Kunkabayev in the first round, before making his superior boxing skills tell over the remaining four rounds to secure the win and maintain his unbeaten (4-0) record in WSB.

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The British Lionhearts were on dazzling form in London’s York Hall on Friday night, going one better than their 3-2 first leg win to record a famous 4-1 victory over the titleholders to reach their first ever WSB final. The 7-3 aggregate score means they will now meet the Cuba Domadores in the final in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, next weekend.

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The Arlans’ former National Champion Azamat Issakulov started brightly against the Lionhearts’ Armenian draft pick Koryun Soghomonyan with some swift attacking flair, but Soghomonyan soon found his rhythm and accuracy in the second and third rounds to assume the advantage. Issakulov finished strongly, but the Armenian flyweight had already done enough to earn a unanimous decision and set the home side on their way.

Luke McCormack then met ASBC Asian Confederation silver medallist Zakir Safiullin in a patient, tactical lightweight bout. Safiullin was wary of his opponents body shots and defended well in the opening rounds, but McCormack kept his focus, taking a crucial lead that the Kazakh’s resilient spirit could not break through and earning the home side a healthy 5-2 lead.

The Arlans were far from finished, however, and Aslanbek Shymbergenov came out blazing against Josh Kelly as the visitors tried to force their way back in to the tie. The Kazah welterweight was imperious in the opening round, boxing from distance and closing up when required, controlling the match right to the final bell to make it 5-3 and give his side a glimmer of hope.

The Lionhearts’ Bulgarian boxer Radoslav Pantaleev had other ideas, however, and followed his teammates success in keeping his distance from the experienced Nurdaulet Zharmanov. As Zharmanoc fell behind he was forced to chase the match, and as he tired, Pantaleev was able to capitalise on the small errors, earning a unanimous points win and confirming the Lionhearts’ place in the Season VI final.

With the win guaranteed, British powerhouse Frazer Clarke was able to enjoy a crowd-pleasing finale against fellow promising super heavyweight Kamshybek Kunkabayev. Both boxers have big-hitting reputations, and the Kazakh landed a solid left in the second round to floor Clarke, but the Lionhearts star responded well, taking control of a superb final contest to win by split decision, raising the roof in London’s York Hall.

World Series of Boxing (WSB) is a unique team boxing competition and one of the most exciting sports leagues in the world that features 16 teams competing in four groups of four with the top two teams qualifying for play offs.

The World’s premier boxing series is a hard fought competition of unparalleled intensity, speed and power. Teams compete across four continents of Africa, Americas, Asia and Europe for several intense months.

The Season VI is widely anticipated to be the greatest instalment of the world class boxing competition, with two new franchises from Turkey and Uzbekistan, and the possibility for boxers to qualify to the Olympic Qualification event in spring 2016.

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