In front of a large crowd at London’s Copper Box Arena, Cuba Domadores defeated British Lionhearts 5-0 and achieved their 13th consecutive victory in Season V of the World Series of Boxing (WSB).
The Cuban team entered this fixture after the historic news was revealed that the International Boxing Association (AIBA) has become the exclusive partner for all Cuban boxers from the Cuban Boxing Federation whenever they compete in international boxing competitions, and their WSB team celebrated the occasion with five superb victories.
Despite losing the match, the British team impressed throughout the night, and many of their boxers put in spirited and tenacious performances.
This was the last fixture of the Regular Season for the weight classes competing in London, and many Cuban fighters improved their chances of earning a qualification quota for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games through WSB.
In the first fight of the evening, Britain’s 0-1 Light flyweight (49 kg) Joseph Maphosa made his WSB debut against Cuba’s 18-year-old sensation 5-2 Joahnys Oscar Argilagos Perez.
Despite making his first appearance in the competition against such a highly rated prospect, Maphosa was not overawed and began the bout in a composed fashion, beating the Cuban to the jab and looking sharp.
Argilagos improved as the fight progressed, and displayed his quick hands and dynamic reflexes to just edge the majority of the rounds.
Maphosa never gave up however, and constantly moved forward to try and cleanly hit the elusive Cuban.
After five rounds, Argilagos edged a split decision verdict, winning 50-45 and 48-47 on two scorecards, while Maphosa won 48-47 according to the third judge.
Two-time Commonwealth Games medalist Sean McGoldrick then entered the ring for a Bantamweight (56 kg) clash with Cuba’s Andy Cruz Gomez.
McGoldrick won the first round on two scorecards after exhibiting some powerful shots, but as in the first bout, the Cuban fighter recovered well and began to exercise control in the later rounds.
Despite his young age, Cruz performs well in all facets of boxing, and combined a strong defence with an outstanding array of attacks.
Perhaps the biggest difference between the two fighters was stamina, as McGoldrick tired towards the end of the fight despite constantly throwing shots, and Cruz ultimate claimed the win on all three scorecards 50-45, 49-46, and 48-47.
Cruz is now 5-0 in WSB this season, and temporarily tops the Bantamweight rankings, but will have to rely on the failure of others this weekend if he is to earn one of the two Rio 2016 quota places through this competition.
Cuba’s Olympic Games bronze medalist and two-time AIBA World Championships silver medalist Yasniel Toledo started his Light welterweight (64 kg) match with Britain’s Samuel Maxwell like a whirlwind, and he landed many power shots on Maxwell in the first three minutes which led to a 10-8 round across the board.
Toledo kept up the pressure in the second and third rounds, but the resolute and tough Maxwell fought back in the fourth frames and caught the Cuban several times.
The fifth round was a different story, as Toledo again came out quickly and used his power to great effect, causing the referee gave the brave Maxwell two standing counts, before stopping the bout midway through the round after another Toledo barrage.
This result gave Cuba the overall victory on the night, and sent Toledo to the top of the Light welterweight rankings, four points ahead of Vincenzo Mangiacapre and Gaybatulla Gadzhialiyev who compete later this weekend.
Cuba’s Arlen Lopez then won his sixth match of the season against British debutant Troy Williamson.
Both men came out swinging from the first bell, and Lopez dropped Williamson in the second round after a terrific left hook.
Williamson showed great toughness to recover from the knockdown, and the fight developed into an attacking masterclass, as each boxer threw caution to the wind for the entire contest.
The final scorecards of 50-43 twice and 50-44 did not flatter Lopez who won every round, but Williamson should take great confidence from standing up to dozens of power punches from one of WSB’s best boxers.
Lopez moves to first in the Middleweight (75 kg) rankings, but will be aware that three further fighters could join him on 30 points at the end of the WSB weekend if they win their respective bouts.
Erislandy Savon sealed the whitewash victory for the Domadores, and took his Season V record to 7-0 when he stopped Romania’s 0-5 Ionut-Mirel Jitaru in round two of their bout.
A terrific right uppercut dropped Jitaru, and the preciseness of the shot drew gasps and admiration from the crowd in London.
Savon’s victory takes him to the top of the Heavyweight (91 kg) rankings, five points ahead of Kazakhstan’s Vassiliy Levit who will need to win via unanimous decision or by stoppage on Saturday night to retake the lead and claim the sole Olympic quota for the weight class.
British Lionhearts travel to Mexico Guerreros in their last match of the group stages next week, while Cuba Domadores host Ukraine Otamans.