After clinically dispatching of the British Lionhearts last week, Astana Arlans Kazkhstan ensured they went into the winter-break top of Group B after defeating Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder at the Almaty Sports Palace. Bagdad Alimbekov, debutant Eric Donovan and Ukrainian superstar Sergiy Derevyanchenko all delivered on an important night for the hosts.
It was the Bantamweights (50-54kg) up first with Kazakhstan’s speedy southpaw Alimbekov battling Italian pro boxer Daniele Limone. The 24-year-old Kazak was bright right from the onset, using clever movement to move inside and score vital points. Alimbekov looked in great shape and was in complete control throughout the five rounds, constantly drawing the Italian in before throwing some sweet overheads and some solid combinations. There was even some showboating from the home fighter in the latter stages, to the delight of the home crowd. In the end, it was a real masterclass by the Kazak fighter, who earned himself a resounding victory.
Keen to make an impression for his new team, 27-year-old Irishman Donovan came flying out of the blocks in the Lightweight (57-61kg) contest against the Thunder’s Branimir Stankovic. Kazakhstan’s latest recruit looked to stamp his authority on the Serbian early, using the jab to good effect before throwing a good variation of punches to keep the pressure on his opponent. Stankovic began to connect more to claw his way into the fight but the Kazakhstan southpaw was standing strong and after a final flourish, Donovan took the final round to ensure his team went 2-0 up on the night.
Kazakhstan’s Middleweight (68-73kg) king Derevyanchenko once again showcased why he is the division’s top dog with a sublime performance against accomplished Frenchman Michel Tavares. The unbeaten Arlans orthodox fighter had to work hard to get close to his rival in the opening two rounds but managed to wear down his rival by working the body well. He then stepped up a gear in the last two rounds and showed a quality variation in his punches to overpower Tavares and claim the win, guaranteeing his team the overall victory in the match.
24-year-old Uzbek Ramzjon Ahmedov struggled to contain the crisp movement of 2011 Individual Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) Champion Abdelhafid Benchabla in the fourth bout of the evening. The lightening quick Algerian 26-year-old’s footwork was top class. Picking off his opponent to perfection, ducking and weaving to great effect and then pouncing with some great shots, Benchabla was on fire. After claiming the first four rounds, he then saw out the final stages of the bout to reduce the Italia Thunder’s deficit in the tie.
The much anticipated return to WSB of France’s talented Heavyweight (91+kg) Tony Yoka did not disappoint with the 20-year-old Italia Thunder boxer dominating Mihai Nistor from Romania with a thunderous right the highlight of the first round. The huge difference in height told as the towering Yoka contained the onrushing Kazakhstan fighter with his solid jab and good one-two combinations. The Frenchman got caught early in the fifth with a hard shot and had to take a standing eight count but did enough to win by split decision and give the Thunder a precious point for the match.
Kazahstan will see their first fixture of 2013 take place at the Kuppelsaal Congress Centrum when they travel to Germany on Saturday 12 January to face the Eagles. Italia have a home match against USA Knockouts that same night.