By Tom Degun

WSB logoMarch 23 - The World Series of Boxing (WSB) has reached the most pivotal stage of the season as Astana Arlans, Dynamo Moscow, Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder and Baku Fires face off in the semi-finals of the tournament with two of the franchises guaranteed a prestigious spot in the team finals in May at the ExCeL, the venue for the London 2012 Olympics.

The WSB is currently the only professional boxing tournament in the world that allows fighters to retain their Olympic eligibility and to qualify for the Olympic Games while it is owned by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

Both semi-finals for season two of the competition will consist of a home and away leg with Astana Arlans taking on Dynamo Moscow in the Kazak capital in the first of the last four bouts before traveling to Moscow for the return match.

In the other semi-final, Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder will look to secure an advantage fighting at home in Italy in the first leg against Baku Fires before heading to the Azerbaijan capital for the return bout.

The Astana Arlans against Dynamo Moscow bout looks set to be a close affair; the last time the two met earlier in the season, Astana narrowly triumphed 3-2 in a very close contest.

The epic heavyweight bout between Astana's Ruslan Myrsatayev and Moscow's Sergey Kalchugin was the highlight of the match between the two, and promises once again to go to the wire.

There is an intriguing match-up in the bantamweight contest as the experienced Mirzhan Rakhimzhanov lines-up for the home team against the 21-year-old Russian orthodox rising star Vladimir Nikitin.

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There will be huge interest in the lightweight bout when Kazak heavy-hitter Merey Akshalov takes on one of the WSB's most accomplished boxers in the 27-year-old Belarusian southpaw Vazgen Safaryants, who boasts an unblemished record in his two WSB seasons, winning all of his eight fights.

Meanwhile Arlans' 21-year-old middleweight prospect Miras Bairkhanov has already made the competition sit up and take notice with two TKOs this season, and he will be hoping for a third as he takes on Moscow's Vitali Bandarenka, who has yet to register a win in his two fights this season.

In the light heavyweight bout Moscow's Danil Shved, the 28 years old Russian orthodox fighter who has won all three of his bouts this season, will be pitted against the Arlans' Uzbek Ramzjon Ahmedov, who will have been buoyed by his last outing when he beat fans' favourite Kennedy Katende from the Mexico City Guerreros.

Meanwhile, in the second semi-final between Dolce & Gabbana Milano Thunder and Baku Fires, Baku's top ranked bantamweight Gairbek Germakhanov goes in as heavy favourite against Milano's Vicenzo Picardi.

A fascinating lightweight contest is in store as Baku's talented Madadi Nagzibekov takes on Serbian National Champion Branimir Stankovic.

Middleweight could be the key contest when Milano's 26-year-old Irishman William McLaughlin, who has four wins in as many fights in his debut season, takes on 21-year-old Azeri Osman Aliyevm, who will be alighting the ring for the first time this season.

Milano's light heavyweight Imre Szello will have his hands full with Baku's 19-year-old southpaw Vatan Huseynli as the Azeri is rated very highly by his coaching team, who have predicted he is ready to explode onto the international scene.

But the star attraction of the night will be Milano's heavyweight Clemente Russo, the 2007 world champion and reigning Olympic silver medallist.

The 29-year-old Italian master tactician has yet to taste defeat in his 12 WSB career fights and will, therefore, be the huge favourite against Azeri southpaw Haji Murtuzaliyev.

The team finals will be held at the ExCeL, the boxing venue for the London 2012 Olympic Games, over two days from May 1 and 2.

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