Less than five months since its latest installment at the very same venue, Arena Boxing Promotion is back in Ashdod, Israel, with its next nice-packed little tournament. The show labeled “Israel Boxing Series 2” is set to take place on February 9 and will be preceded by several amateur contests. 

Two cards in a matter of months is major progress from deaf 10s, which saw just two pro boxing events in Israel in twelve and half years from April 2010 till September 2022.

Pugilism is a rare guest in Israel nowadays. It wasn’t quite that usual in previous decades as well, despite a long-time combat tradition in the Israeli army and a huge load of famed fighters of Jewish origin, including some Hall-of-Famers, in the early stages of professional boxing. Yet there’s a stark contrast between the first two decades of this century.

The 00s were arguably the Golden Age of Israeli pugilism, with 5-6 events a year and local fighters making waves worldwide. Determined Hagar Shmoulefeld Finer was a stalwart in lower weight classes, bringing ring legend Regina Halmich to her limit in a narrow decision loss and capturing WIBF super flyweight and bantamweight titles. Stocky Ran Nakash made a name for himself with a solid effort against Marko Huck for the WBO cruiserweight title, while Elad Shmouel and Merhav Mohar were quite successful at a lower level.

Israeli/Moldovan coach and promoter Evgeni Boico of Arena Boxing Promotion, who organized several events in Ukraine and Moldova over the last several years, is now producing an effort to bring Sweet Science back to the Promised Land even without local fighters of such caliber. 

While ambitions are in place, the start is always rocky and hard. There will be six pro fights in a card, and only one of them is scheduled for six rounds. It is, however, a step up from four four-rounders last September.

Headlining the show is Ukrainian light middleweight Dmytro Shcherbina (13-2-1, 4 KOs). The 27-year-old started his pro career in South Africa and was an epitome of a boxing traveler after that, having fought in native Ukraine, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Macedonia, Albania, and Poland. Both of his losses took place in 2021 against then-undefeated prospects Tomasz Nowicki and Mirko Natalizi. Shcherbina’s biggest win was a unanimous decision over 9-1-2 Ali El Said in November 2022.

Opposing the Ukrainian will be well-traveled and upset-minded Georgian import Nikolozi Gviniashvili (15-30-4, 12 KOs). Gviniashvili, 33, has a deceiving boxing record, which looks even worse with 21 losses in his last 21 fights. On the other hand, Gviniashvili was stopped just five times over the course of his career. He had a draw with Spanish fringe contender Aitor Nieto in 2016, but his biggest (and latest) victory came a year after that with a road decision over 10-1-1 Chinese Cheng Su for a vacant WBC International Silver 154lb belt. Shcherbina vs. Gviniashvili is scheduled for six rounds.

The rest of the card is filled with four-rounders.

20-year-old Ashdod native Sagiv Ismailov (3-0, 2 KOs) will test his skills against all-action Albanian super middleweight Kristi Doni (2-2, 2 KOs). Ismailov was a star of the previous Ashdod tourney, outfighting and outscoring Nikita Basin (4-2) over four. Ismailov is a TZAHAL instructor, combining his career with his army duties.

Russia-born and Israeli-bred lightweight Igor Lazarev (8-4, 3 KOs), who at 36 tries to build up his pro career following solid amateur accolades, takes on Moldovan no-hoper Vladislav Gaureac (0-3), 20. Lazarev will try to snap his three-fight losing streak.

In a fight between rookies, Alex Karchevskiy of Bat Yam, Israel, makes his pro debut against another Moldovan import Cvintillian Lisii (1-1, 1 KO) in a super middleweight non-title affair. Another debutant Ledjo Deda of Albania clashes against arguably the weakest opponent of all in Romanian professional loser Sorin Marius Petre (0-48-2).

In the sole female contest of the night, Albanian Griselda Torollari (1-1, 1 KO) takes on Georgian Teona Pirosmanashvili (2-6-1, 2 KOs) over four two-minute rounds.

The event had been originally scheduled to take place in Bney Aish, Israel, but after certain restrictions were imposed by its municipality, it was moved to Ashdod. The show will be co-promoted by Arena Boxing Promotion & Management, an Albanian promotional group led by Albi Sorra, which operates in several states, including Albania, Moldova, and Israel, and Alpha Ashdod Prosperity. The show is sanctioned by the Bulgarian Professional Boxing Union and supported by Goryan, Free Balance, and 365

Fight boxing club. It will be preceded by several amateur contests, while its pugilistic part starts at around 6:30 PM LT.