Moscow: Boxing teams from Russia and Ukraine put aside political tensions Monday to contest a World Series of Boxing quarterfinal in Moscow, with the hosts landing most of the blows in the ring.
The Russian Boxing Team took a 4-1 lead against the Ukraine Otamans ahead of the return meeting in Donetsk next weekend in a contest that received added attention following Russia's annexation of Crimea and escalated military buildup on the Ukrainian border.
The Ukrainian team was greeted by polite applause by the crowd of about 500 people at the Arena Moscow, which included Russian Olympic Committee chief Alexander Zhukov and International Boxing Association president Wu Ching-Kuo. The crowd also stood up when the Ukrainian national anthem was played before the first bout, and Wu said the contest was marked by "sportsmanship."
"I think that the audience has really showed their support for both teams," Wu said.
Occassional cries of "Russia" and "Ukraine" drifted across from the supporters sitting ringside, but that rarely managed to drown out the trainers' instructions.
"A good atmosphere," Ukrainian fighter Denys Berinchyk said. "Boxing fans who love boxing, and love Ukrainian boxing. It's a better reception for us than, for example, Germany. In Germany they greeted us with whistles and jeers and here with normal applause."
The Ukrainian team took an early lead as 20-year-old Hasanboy Dusmatov beat Olympic bronze medalist David Ayrapetyan in a split decision in a light flyweight bout.
However, the Russian Boxing Team won the next four fights by unanimous decision, including a surprising victory when World University Games winner Radzhab Butaev beat Berinchyk, the Olympic silver medalist in light welterweight.
The Russian franchise is owned by oil and gas engineering company Stroytransgaz, which is controlled by Kremlin-linked billionaire Gennady Timchenko, who was placed on a U.S. Treasury sanctions list following the annexation of Crimea. The Ukrainian franchise is run by the national boxing federation.
The International Boxing Association allows fighters to receive a salary for competing in the World Series while still keeping their amateur eligibility.
The winner is scheduled to face either the USA Knockouts or the Cuba Domadores in the semifinals on April 25 and May 2.