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Cuba’s Domadores dominate Mexico’s Guerreros (5-0)

Cuba’s Domadores dominate Mexico’s Guerreros (5-0)

Friday January 17, 2013

Cuba continued its domination of Group B of the World Series of Boxing with a relatively straightforward win against the Mexico Guerros. The five bouts covered Flyweights (52kg), Lightweights (60kg), Welterweights (69kg), Light Heavyweights (81kg) and Super Heavyweights (91+kg).

The best bout of the night saw Lightweight, Lazaro ‘the Prince’ Alvarez, the Cuban current World Champion and London 2012 Olympic Bronze medallist – against Raul Curiel. It certainly was a trial by fire for the young Mexican, but whilst it would be easy to wax-lyrical about the 22 year old Cuban phenomenon’s boxing, it is also worth noting the bravery of the Guerrero, who didn’t make it easy for his more experienced opponent. Technically speaking it was the closest bout of the evening on the judges’ scorecards and it was a wonderful bout to watch.

Welterweight Roniel Iglesias Sotolongo,the 2009 World Champion and Olympic Champion from the London Games made his long awaited WSB debut against Hector Reyes. Sotolongo meanwhile looked majestic in the ring. Leading with his right hand low to invite the counter-punch set-up, he was also able to snap in long range lead hooks and jabs with astonishing speed. This was a world class performance from a boxer who may well be re-finding his best form.

Their victory today meant that the Cubans have now only lost four bouts in 30 in the WSB so far, a WSB record.

Upcoming World Series Bouts (Home)

Fri Feb 21, 8.30pm: Cuba va Kazakhstan
Fri Feb 28, 8.30pm: Cuba vs Azerbaijan

Ciudad Deportiva

The bouts, which are taking place from December 2013 through May 2014, come under the auspices of the International Boxing Association (AIBA). There are two round robin groups in which fighters in each weight division fight over five rounds. Cuba’s group B includes Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan, Mexico and Poland. This tournament also counts towards the qualification of 30 boxers who will be going to the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016.

Group B Standings ? Dec 28, 2013

Cuba’s Domadores
The team, which contains the leading stars of the Cuban Olympic Boxing squad, is called the “Domadores” or “[Lion] Tamers” in English.  The logo pays homage to Cuban boxer Teófilo Stevenson, the country’s three time Olympic Gold medallist and World Champion, who died last year aged 60. He is widely regarded as being the most successful boxer that Cuba has ever produced and it is his image that the team will be fighting under.

According to Alberto Puig de la Barca, President of the Cuban Boxing Federation, “the logo design was inspired by the traditional strength and prestige of Cuban boxing. It encapsulates the obligation of every member of the team to fight for the win in each and every bout, with the purpose of confirming that our country belongs among the world’s elite in this sport”. He went on to explain that “it is the graphic expression of our will to overcome our adversaries, to respect fair-play and to represent our flag”.

Cuba’s Russian take-down plays to a full house
Cuba 5 Russia 0
(Ciudad Deportiva, Dec 6, 2013)

In 1961, Cuba abolished professional boxing.  But the December 6, 2013 marked the return of semi-professional boxing to Cuba for the first time in 52 years since the recent reforms included the compensation for Cubans’ fighting in their national colours.  Over 14,000 people came to watch the first ever Domadores match. That set a new WSB record.  Erislandy Savon got a knowing cheer of approval from the crowd when he chose to volt over the top rope in the manner formally used by his six-time World Champion and three time Olympic gold medal winning uncle, Felix Savon.

Having won their first two matches against Mexico and Poland, the ‘Domadores’ of Cuba entered the ring of the Ciudad Deportiva Coliseum in Havana as favorites keen to maintain their position at the top of their group. The local line-up presented two changes to the team that debuted against the Mexican “Guerreros” in the 56 and 64 Kg. division. Feather-weight Marcos Forestal and young Luis Oliva joined their teammates Yosbani Veitía, Ramón Luis and Guantanamo native Erislandy Savón in the 49, 75 and 91 Kg. divisions respectively. The Russian Team was made up of Muhammad Sebo, Radjab Butaev (64Kg), Bator Sagaluev (49Kg), Andrey Efremenko (75 Kg.) and Victor Kuduhov (91Kg)

Light flyweight

Yosvani Veitía vs
Bator Sagaluev World bronze medalist Yosvani Veitía (Light flyweight 46-49Kg) vs Bator Sagaluev left no room for doubts and disconcerted the Russian opponent to end up receiving the unanimous vote of the judges: 3 to 0. He was so confident that he boxed with his hands down for most of the time. The Russian boxer was able to catch him for this every now and then, but nothing came close to bothering him. Veitia took to the centre of the ring with the confidence of a world class master of the sport. He looked so good in the ring and his jabs seemed so sharp that it looked like he could have beaten anyone in the world last night. Yosbany took his personal record to 2-0 and you have to wonder if there are many out there who are capable of beating him this year. Flyweight
Marcos Forestal vs
Muhammad Sebo Marcos Forestal (Flyweight 52kg) had to work a little harder against Muhammad Sebo; experts saw him as the under-dog in this match because his Russian adversary is the national runner-up in his country. But the young Cuban showed his spirit, even continuing to fight after a cut on his forehead stopped the fight on several occasions.  Nevertheless, and even though the constant jabs of the Russian didn’t let him do a neater job, he managed to come out with 2-1 after his opponent left the ring because of a facial wound. Light welterweight
Luis Oliva vs
Radjab Butaev The rookie Luis Oliva (Light welterweight – 64Kg.) vs Radjab Butaev also ground out a win in the least impressive of the bouts. Middleweight
Ramon Luis vs
Andrey Efremenko Ramon Luis (Middleweight – 75Kg.) vs Andrey Efremenko provided the best fight of the evening taking energy from an enthusiastic crowd who blew the roof off.  The tall southpaw was sublime, economical in the ring and smooth in his movements. His evasion skills were incredible. He basically boxed the entire 5th round with his hands by his sides. The Russian was just unable to get near him for much of the bout, while the Cuban’s own punching repertoire was excellent. Luis barely seemed to get out of second gear and his showmanship and mobility was reminiscent of a young Muhammad Ali. Heavyweight
Erislandy Savón vs
Victor Kuduhov Erislandy Savón (Heavyweight – 91Kg.) vs Victor Kuduhov displayed excellent technique to provide Cuba’s final win. The Russian having taken a beating in round one, adjusted his approach and started to close with his opponent and turn it into a scrap. He used spoiling techniques that were very ugly but nonetheless tactically exactly what was needed. The match wasn’t the most beautiful of the evening, but because of the experienced Russian’s tactics, it was possibly the most competitive

Cuba outclasses reigning champions
Kazakhstan 2: Cuba 3

After the 5:0 rubber in Cuba, the Cubans increased their grip of first place in their group. The long trip to Almaty saw them matched against a strong Kazakhstan team at the site of the last world boxing championships. This fight, held on the 13th of December 2013, saw Cuba walk away with three wins (and three points) thanks to their strong trio in the 60, 69 and 81 Kg. divisions: world champs Lázaro Álvarez and Julio César la Cruz and runner-up Arinoidis Despaigne. None of these three boxers had any difficulty in winning their respective fights. However this night also saw two defeats for Cuba in the 52 and +91 Kg. division.

In the most exciting and highly anticipated match of the season so far, the new kids on the block, the Cuba Domadores out-classed the defending champions the Astana Arlans Kazakhstan in a thriller in Almaty.

Bout report
Light Heavyweight World Champion Julio “The Doctor” La Cruz took on Astana Arlans WSB veteran Hrvoje Sep in a crunch match. Sep walked onto some very well-placed uppercuts early on and immediately opted to start working on the inside. Attempting to spoil the Cuban’s game by disrupting his rhythm, the Croatian began to make a menace of himself. While the Cuban took the first round, the Croatian put him under serious pressure in round two. Beautiful though La Cruz’s style is, boxing with your hands around your waist is inevitably risky. 99% of the time the Cuban looks good doing this, but against the scrappy Sep, there was the odd moment when he appeared vulnerable, with the Arlans man’s overhand right sometimes connecting well.

This became a contrast of styles with La Cruz dominating at range when he could use his brilliant foot work to maximum effect and the Arlans fighter looking dangerous whenever he could cut the ring off and box on the inside. Sep boxed a tactically splendid bout, really disrupting the Cuban’s game. In the end though the Cuban was just too good and he took the bout over tough opposition to seal the win for the Cubans.

With the score tied to one bout apiece the pressure was really on both Bakhytzan Kozhabekov of the Arlans and Arisnoidys Despaigne of Cuba in their Welterweight bout. The crowd went crazy when the Cuban slipped in the first, with many of them thinking he had been knocked down from their viewpoint in the stands. The Cuban was alright though. The southpaw Kazakh boxer took round one against the World silver medallist Despaigne by using his height advantage, piling even more pressure on his opponent. The Cuban however battled his way back into it to take round two by split decision. Despaigne’s aggressive style, which was at first so unusual for a Cuban boxer, is quickly becoming familiar to fans and his overwhelming barrage gradually began to gain momentum as the bout wore on. The intensity continued to build with the Kazakh athlete starting to suffer tremendously. The referee had seen enough with a minute left in round three and Despaigne took his second TKO in two WSB outings. This was a standout performance even by Despaigne’s standards and if we haven’t already mused over the point, then surely today we have to wonder who out there is capable of stopping him this year?

Flyweight Miras Zhakupov put in an incredible performance against Gerardo Cervantes of Cuba. The two orthodox boxers were in great form with the Kazakh boxer showing truly exceptional footwork and utterly dominating the range of the bout. With the Arlans man taking the opening three rounds, the Cuban fought back hard in the 4th to take the round. But going into the 5th, the Cervantes knew that the only way to take the bout was to knock his opponent out and he came out with the clear intention of achieving just that. Despite Cervantes really battering his Kazakh opponent for the whole round, the tactical Zhakupov had done enough at long range to hold onto the lead. This was a huge win for the Arlans number two pick, which brought him to 5-1 in the WSB and added another big name to his CV. More importantly this was the first time the Cuba Domadores had lost a bout in the WSB; thus it was Zhakupov who proved that even the mighty Cubans are not invincible.

Double world Champion Lazaro “the Prince” Alvarez struggled against WSB debutant Zhandos Momunov of Kazakhstan at Lightweight. The southpaw Cuban perhaps underestimated the skill level of his opponent, and also felt the psychological impact of his teammate Gerardo Cervantes having lost Cuba’s first ever bout just moments before he took to the ring. However, he soon got into his stride and by round three looked fairly comfortable. But credit is due to the inexperienced Arlans boxer for bravely pushing the Cuban hard.

Super Heavyweight Filip Hrgovic looked very confident going out against WSB debutant Jose Angel Larduet, the 2009 World Champion. But then the bout started. It then quickly became clear that these were very evenly matched boxers, with Hrgovic using his jab and cross in conjunction with his reach advantage, while the Cuban looked to land overhand rights and massive left hooks. Hrgovic began to have the better of the bout, drawing on his three seasons of prior experience in the WSB to drop the Cuban in the second. He gave him a standing eight in the third. The Cuban got another one with a minute to go and the referee had seen enough with 35 seconds left in the third round.

Background to World Series of Boxing
Developed by the International Boxing Association (AIBA), the WSB is a unique concept. It is the first ever pro-style competition where boxers retain their Olympic eligibility and moreover, the first event which sees national-based pro boxing teams go head to head in a league format. Endorsed by nearly 200 National Federations, it represents the future of boxing. The WSB marked a new era in the sport of boxing when it launched its first season on 19 November 2010. Since then the league has gone from strength to strength.

Season III (2012/2013) saw a popular switch away from city based teams to national ones, allowing supporters from across whole countries to fully get behind their teams. The quality of the boxing has been steadily increasing too with 50 WSB Boxers participating in the London 2012 Olympic Games and thirteen of them winning medals (two golds, four silvers and seven bronzes). With Olympic qualification itself a highly demanding challenge for athletes, the sheer volume of WSB competitors present demonstrates the calibre of talent that is competing across the league.

The balance of power in the ring shifted east last season and after six months of hard fought competition, featuring 12 teams and 370 high octane bouts, the 2012-2013 WSB Team Finals featured the Ukraine Otamans and Astana Arlans Kazakhstan. The finals were fought across two days and went down to the wire in the most dramatic fashion. With the scores tied at five bouts a piece, the event went down to a single tiebreaker bout, which saw the Arlans win the most exciting WSB Team Finals to date.

Next season looks set to be even more exciting with the arrival of the Cuban national team in the shape of the Cuban Domadores Franchise. As one of the most powerful boxing nations in the world, the Cubans have been thrown straight into the lion’s den, being drawn in a WSB Regular Season group that many have dubbed “the Group of Death”. This will pit them against defending champions Astana Arlans Kazakhstan, along with semi-finalists Mexico Guerreros, a potentially lethal Russian Team, WSB “bad boys” Azerbaijan Baku Fires and the rugged Series III quarter-finalists Hussars Poland.

Vision of the International Boxing Association (AIBA)
Boxing is one of human kind’s original forms of athletic sport. Boxing blends raw athleticism, heritage, artistic craft, honor, glamour and a tradition in popular culture as a story canvas for the struggles and triumphs of life. Boxing boasts millions of devotees. It has competitors and fans in every corner of the world.

Yet the sport has never benefited from a self-sustaining structure. Aspiring boxers start in grassroots clubs, where the best become sponsored by national federations. Through these federations, boxers can make their way to the pinnacle of the sport of boxing: the World Boxing Championships and the Olympic Games. Unfortunately, moving into the professional ranks has meant giving up the chance to compete for your country in future World Championships and Olympic Games.

As the IOC-recognized world governing body for boxing, with 194 national federations, the International Boxing Association (AIBA) set up the World Series of Boxing SA (WSB SA) as a limited company registered in Switzerland.

The company was established to own all of the commercial and other rights relating to WSB. WSB SA will have its own management structure that will oversee the development and global promotion of WSB as a whole, as well as managing the day-to-day relationships with the franchisees.

With its headquarters in Lausanne, WSB SA will seek to bring world-leading governance and commercial guidance and leadership to WSB and its family of stakeholders.

AIBA’s vision for the World Series of Boxing is to preserve the best of the new style of professional boxing while removing its negative elements. The WSB will reunite the broader boxing world and its grassroots foundation, provide a bridge between Open boxing and professional boxing, and help the sport of boxing reclaim its noble position in sport at all levels.


Cuban’s Boxing History
The Cuban school of boxing is considered one of the best in the world with 67 Olympic medals and 116 world championships. Cuba also reigned supreme from 1972 to 2008 when, for the first time, it won no medals in the Beijing Olympics. In London 2012, Cuba recovered to take away two medals.

Boxers on the island are noted for their unique fighting style, and they have attained international recognition thanks boxers such as Teófilo Stevenson and Félix Savón.

February 2014 This article formed part of the February 2014 issue of What’s On Havana Digital Magazine
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