The first leg of the World Series of Boxing (WSB) Season IV Finals between Azerbaijan Baku Fires and Cuba Domadores took place in Baku, with the Cubans narrowly winning the night 3-2.
Going into the second leg both teams would have been confident of their chances, and indeed both performed incredibly well under much pressure.
At the end of the night however, it was the Cuba Domadores, in their debut season who won the WSB Season IV title, by the narrowest of margins.
The contest went down to the wire, with The Baku Fires winning three of the first five fights.
This meant that the scores were tied 5-5 on aggregate, with a Sudden Death bout between Azerbaijan’s Yauheni Ramashkevich and Cuba’s Arisnoydis Despaigne needed to find an overall winner.
It was the Cuban who prevailed, despite a great effort from Ramashkevich, and his victory saw his team crowned champions.
The Flyweights (52kgs), Bantamweight (56kg), Lightweights (60kg), Welterweights (69kg), Light-Heavyweights (81kg) and Super-Heavyweights (91kg+) contested this match.
The first fight of the night was at Flyweight (52 kg) between Azerbaijan’s Elvin Mamishzada and Cuba’s Gerardo Cervantes.
There was a consistent tempo to the fight, and Mamishzada dominated from the outset, with one thudding right hand stunning Cervantes i round one, which made the Cuban have to take a standing count.
The second round was another strong one from the Azeri athlete, and though Cervantes ended the second round stronger, he still lost the round.
Mamishzada’s stamina looked to be waning in round three, but he found a second wind in rounds four and five.
It was the way he controlled the fight from the outset which impressed the judges, and though Cervantes never gave up, Elvin Mamishzada made it 1-0 on the night for The Baku Fires, and 3-3 on aggregate with a large points win over his Cuban opponent.
Bout of the match
The second fight of the night was at Welterweight, as WSB veteran Mahamed Nurudzinau faced the undefeated gold medal specialist Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo.
Iglesias came into the fight with a 4-0 WSB record, but he was made to work for every minute of his clash with the savvy Nurudzinau, who pushed his Cuban opponent to the brink in every round.
The fight was one you couldn’t take your eye off, as both men fought valiantly to achieve victory.
Despite his advancing years, Nurudzinau’s workrate was incredible, and he used all manner of veteran tricks to try and thwart Iglesias.
Cuba’s Iglesias just about managed to distance himself from Nurudzinau enough to impress the judges, and he fought in a very un-Cuban way, setting himself in the middle of the ring, and fighting fire with fire with the man from Baku.
He eventually won a very entertaining contest by points on all three judges scorecards, 49-46 x2, and 48-47.
Boxer of the match
Cuban Light-Heavyweight Julio Cesar De La Cruz had the pressure of his entire nation on his shoulders going into his fight against The Baku Fires representative Mikhail Dauhaliavets.
De La Cruz needed to win to keep Cuba in the contest, and a loss would have given the title to Azerbaijan.
The Cuban put on a boxing clinic against his brave opponent, using incredible footwork and head movement, teamed with sharp shots and dynamic reflexes.
He won every minute of every round against Dauhaliavets, who attacked with constant pressure, but could not find a way through a genuine world class opponent.
The turning point
Coming into the third fight of the evening, Azerbaijan were drawing 1-1, but knew that they had a great chance of victory in the fourth fight of the evening, but they were aware that the last fight of the night involved Cuba’s Julio Cesar De La Cruz, who was expected to win his contest.
Therefore they needed a performance from their star boxer, Albert Selimov, a legend in boxing for beating Ukraine’s superstar Vasyl Lomachenko in the final of the 2007 AIBA World Boxing Championships.
His opponent was Cuba’s Lazaro Alvarez, a two-time World Champion who was also 6-0 in WSB going into the contest.
The fight turned out to be one that could have gone either way, with Selimov constantly peppering Alvarez with sharp punches, while his Cuban opponent frequently flustered his opponent with furious flurries.
In the end, two judges scored the fight for Selimov, while one favoured Alvarez.
The result meant that Azerbaijan went into a 2-1 lead in the evening, and the win ultimately ensured that a Sudden Death bout would be needed.
The fourth bout of the evening was a Super-Heavyweight battle between Azerbaijan’s number one ranked Arslanbek Makhmudov in action against Cuba’s José Angel Larduet.
Makhmudov was undefeated in WSB prior to the bout, mostly due to his special power, and he controlled the majority of his contest against the Cuban to extend his record to 5-0 for the season.
Larduet was several inches smaller than his opponent, and couldn’t find his range until the third round, by which time Makhmudov had already built up an impressive points lead.
Makhmudov’s win put The Baku Fires into a 3-1 lead on the night.
The WSB Champion was decided by a Welterweight tiebreaker between Azerbaijan’s Yauheni Ramashkevich and Cuba’s Arisnoydis Despaigne.
Despaigne was ranked two at Welterweight, and was 3-0 going into the bout, while Ramashkevich had a more modest 2-2 record.
Both boxers gave it their all, but ultimately the class of Despaigne proved too much for the spirited Ramashkevich, and he won the fight on all three