WSB 2013-14: Group A Week 1: Just How wide open is it?15 November 2013
Group A looks set to be a wide open affair with Season III runner’s up the Ukraine Otamans and Season II winners the Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder clear favourites to dominate the group this year.
With those two Franchises expected to perform well, the remaining two places in the Play-Offs are completely up for grabs by any of the other teams. While Group B may be exciting for boxing fanatics with the big name teams fighting in a tight league, the Group A situation will create a degree of unpredictability which will generate no small degree of interest itself.
Remember this year with the move to ten weight categories, the boxers have been split into two groups: Category 1 (C1) and Category 2 (C2). In terms of weights, the categories break down in the following way:
C1 = 46-49kg, 56kg, 64kg, 75kg, 91kg
C2 = 52kg, 60kg, 69kg, 81kg, 91+kg
This week, Group A will start the competition under C2.
Argentina Condors vs. Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder
If Argentina have hopes of making it through to the Play-Offs this year, this is the kind of match they will need to win. Fighting Italy at home represents a chance to take some points against one of the two big teams. But it will not be easy, in fact; on paper it looks almost impossible. The Condors have lined up a team with a total of three WSB wins between them and two debutants. Italia Thunder has one of the most star-spangled line-ups at their disposal of any WSB team this term, and they will be deploying a few of their big guns in Argentina. For instance they will be unleashing the exciting Welshman Andrew Selby at Flyweight (52kg). The former British Lionheart and 2013 AIBA World bronze medallist is one to keep your eyes on this year. He will be going out against Christian Eduardo Roda of the Condors who has only fought once before in the WSB (a loss in Week 2 of Season III) Former AIBA World Champion (2011) and current World silver medallist Robson Conceicão will be exciting to watch for Italia Thunder as he takes on fellow WSB debutant Brian Nuñez for the Condors at Lightweight (60kg). The other Italia Thunder boxer who merits a special introduction is Super Heavyweight (91+kg) Mihai Nistor from Romania who was a key member of the Season III winning Astana Arlans Kazakhstan side. Those are the three experienced boxers that Italia hope will win the match,. Meanwhile they are taking the decision to hand debuts to Italian Riccardo Pintaudi and Dutchman Peter Mullenberg at Welterweight (69kg) and Light Heavyweight (81kg) respectively. Pintaudi will have a particularly rough time of it against Argentina’s Brian Castaño. Castaño was responsible for two of the Condor team’s three collective wins and will offer a baptism of fire to the Italian.
Ukraine Otamans vs. USA Knockouts
USA open their Season IV campaign in the most difficult way imaginable with an away trip to Kiev to face the Otamans. The Ukrainian team released pictures showing that one of last Season’s super star boxers Olympic Champion Oleksandr Usyk has been helping coach his former team mates, despite not joining the WSB himself this season. This will be bad news for the USA Knockouts who will feel that the Otamans have enough advantages on their side already. Better news is that the Otamans are fielding an inexperienced team, hoping that the home draw is the time to give some of their less-experienced boxers some ring-time while their leading lights recuperate from the AIBA World Championships, (which were held only a few weeks ago in October). On that basis, the Knockouts’ boxers who have the potential to tip the match in the favour of the visitors are Super Heavyweight Paul Koon III who is one of the most experienced members of the squad. For the Otamans, look out for Season III veteran Rostyslav Arkhypenko who won only one of his five bouts last year. He will be desperate to improve that record and a home draw against Bahodirjon Sultonov of Uzbekistan could be the ideal moment for that to happen. The Uzbek, is in a similar situation himself with two wins out of six bouts in the WSB. So this could be a hotly contested battle, with neither fighter really able to face another loss on their record.
German Eagles vs. Algeria Desert Hawks
The travelling Desert Hawks side will be made up entirely of WSB debutants. That is one potentially surprising fact; the other is how international the team looks with Frenchmen Oualid Belaoura at Lightweight and Fehim Chaabane at Welterweight along with Togo boxer Yaovi Agbonsong all appearing for the Desert Hawks. Agbonsong will have the most difficult debut of the night when he steps out against German talisman Erik Pfeifer. Pfeifer, who took a bronze at the AIBA World Boxing Championships Almaty 2013 is unbeaten in the WSB so far with a record of 3-0. Chaabane doesn’t get it much better as he will be facing Arajik Marutjan who also took a bronze at this year’s World Championships. Although Marutjan lost his only WSB bout to date, it was to the talented Michel Tavares of Italia Thunder. This doesn’t really besmirch his record. Serge Michel adds backbone to a German side that looks set to dominate on paper. Deploying so many of their top boxers so soon after the World Championships suggests that this is a match that the German team consider to be tactically pivotal even at this early stage of the season. They may be right.