By Miras Abykov
ASTANA – On May 10-11, through a remarkable combination of stamina, strength, prowess, and tactical cleverness by the coaches, the Astana Arlans boxing team beat the Ukraine Otamans 6-5 in the final match of the third season of the World Series of Boxing in Astana.
At the end of ten bouts, held in Astana’s Sary-Arka velodrome in the presence of up to 6,000 boxing fans, the Arlans and the Otamans were tied 5-5, requiring an additional fight.That fight included Arlans boxer Baghdad Alimbekov and Otamans Moldovan fighter Alexander Riscan in the category up to 54 kilograms.
The Arlans had held back Alimbekov, the WSB third-ranked bantamweight (50-54 kilograms), in anticipation of a sudden death bout. The Otamans, however, had already used their best bantamweight in an earlier fight, which left only 23-year-old, 29th ranked Riscan to compete against the higher-ranked Kazakh fighter. The 29-year-old Alimbekov looked comfortable as he took every round on his way to winning the tournament for the Arlans team.
Although the young Ukrainian bantamweight did not pose a real threat to the more-experienced Alimbekov, Riscan deserves praise nonetheless for the effort he put into the fight.
“I am in an excellent mood,” Alimbekov said after the fight. “You all saw that the fight, for me, developed very successfully. We have been striving for this victory for three years. It was necessary to give our best and to win.”
Upon the unanimous decision giving the fight to Alimbekov, the hall exploded with applause as the Astana Arlans became champions of the World Series of Boxing.
Yet the road to this victory was not straightforward, even during these two days of heavy fighting.
The two days of finals saw fascinating and nail biting fights for fans of both teams and fortunes swung both ways on more than one occasion.
After the first day of boxing, Kazakhstan’s team led Ukraine’s 3-2.
Meirbolat Toitov (Arlans) beat Viktor Gogolyev (Otamans) in bantamweight; Arlans captain Samat Bashenov lost to two times Olympic and world champion Vasyl Lomachenko of the Otamans in lightweight; Arlans Ukrainian boxer Sergiy Derevyanchenko beat Evgenii Barabanov (Otamans) in middleweight; Croatian Hrvoje Sep (Arlans) beat Sergiy Lapin in light heavyweight. Arlans Romanian boxer Mihai Nistor almost provided the biggest upset of the match as he put on a remarkable fight against Ukraine’s London Olympics champion Oleksandr Usyk of Otamans in the heavyweight division, but ultimately lost.
On the second day of boxing, Miras Zhakupov (Arlans) beat Mykola Butsenko (Otamans) in bantamweight (under 54 kg); Ireland’s Eric Martin Donovan (Arlans) lost to Vyacheslav Kyslytsyn (Otamans) in the lightweight category; Israel’s Konstantin Snigur (Arlans) lost to Dmytro Mytrofanov (Otamans) in the middleweight division; Iran’s Ehsan Rouzbahani (Arlans) lost to Oleksandr Gvozdyk (Otamans) by a technical knockout in the light heavyweight division; and, in one of the most anticipated match, Ruslan Myrsatayev (Arlans) beat Rostyslav Arkhypenko (Otamans) in heavyweight (+91 kg).
As a result, Ukraine’s team went up 3-2 on the day, and the two teams got tied 5-5, prompting the 11th and decisive bout.
International Boxing Association (AIBA) President Dr. Ching-Kuo Wu and Kazakhstan Boxing Federation President Timur Kulibayev congratulated the finalists and awarded the Ukrainian Otamans the WSB Silver Cup and a check for $150,000. The Arlans team received the Gold Cup and a $500,000 check.
Kazakhstan’s ethnic rock band Ulytau was present to congratulate the winners with one of its riveting compositions sending the roaring stalls in the state of euphoria.