Russia back in mix for quarters after Algeria win (2-3)


The Russian team ensured they got themselves back in the hunt for a place in the knockout phase of this season’s World Series of Boxing (WSB) after claiming an important away win in Group A against Algeria Desert Hawks at the Salle Harcha Hassan in Algiers. A night full of drama saw the home team’s Mohamed Amine Ouadahi and Fouzi Bouanka both retire injured with Russian debutants Maxim Dadashev and Petr Khamukov as well Eduard Yakushev getting those vital wins for the visitors.

It was a confident start by Algeria’s French southpaw Vincent Legrandin the opening contest of the night with the 21-year-old Bantamweight (50-54kg) dictating proceedings from the centre of the ring against Russia’s Evgeny Averin in the first round. Averin stepped up his intensity to take the second. The Frenchman had the reach and from then on comfortably went about his business, by always being on the offensive and constantly hounding down his opponent, using that jab before unloading some good one-two combinations to extend his dominance into the third round. A couple of good left hooks and some good work to the body by Legrand then had the Russian on the back foot for much of the fourth. In the end it was an accomplished performance by the fledgling French star as he recorded his first WSB victory to give his team a vital early lead in the match.
London Olympian and 25-year-old Lightweight (57-61kg) Ouadahi received a nasty cut above his right eye in the early exchanges of the first round of his bout against Russian WSB debutant Dadashev, putting him at a big disadvantage because after looking lively early on, he was now in damage limitation mode. Dadashev was taller and clever on the counter and from then on constantly targeting Ouadahi’s gash, he took rounds one and two. The Algerian orthodox fighter came back strong in the third but with the blood still seeping from his eye in the fourth, the referee stepped into stop the fight. With Dadashev ahead on the judges’ scorecards, the Russian was awarded the victory by TKO-I which saw his team draw level on the night.

It was tentative in the first round of the Middleweight (68-73kg) contest between 2011 African Champion Abdelmalek Rahou and the other Russian WSB debutant Khamukov. The 26-year-old Algerian looked inhibited, which invited the orthodox Khamukov to take the initiative and move inside early on. The Russian was quick and precise, landing some good shots to take round one. A big left hook by the Russian midway through the second sent Rahou crashing to the canvas and although he recovered, from the on it was all one-way traffic with Khamukov mixing it up well and unloading at will with the left once more threatening to do some serious damage as he also claimed rounds three and four. In the end, it was straightforward for the 21-year-old Russian as he began his WSB career with a win to put his team 2-1 ahead in the tie.

An apparent dislocation of the shoulder by Bouanka in the first round of the Light Heavyweight (80-85kg) showdown saw the bout unfortunately cut short and the Russian orthodox boxer Yakushev awarded the victory, giving the visitors an unassailable lead and guaranteeing them the win.

It took a while to get going in the much anticipated fight of the night between Algerian superstar Chouaib Bouloudinats and Russian hard man Vitaly Kudukhov at Heavyweight (91+kg). The away boxer immediately took the initiative, constantly moving forward and not letting the 26-year-old Bouloudinats find any kind of rhythm as Kudukhov took round one with his superior work rate. Lifted by the fans in the packed arena, Bouloudinats dug deep and began to find success with the overheads as he picked off his onrushing opponent to claim the following round. It was scrappy and ugly in the following two rounds as the frames were shared on the judges’ scorecards. The fifth saw both boxers showing signs of fatigue, it was Bouloudinats, a WSB veteran with three seasons, who showed more endeavour in the final moments to take the win and reduce the deficit for his team.

The Russian victory meant that they leapfrogged Algeria into fifth place in Group A, blowing the table wide open. After this home defeat, Algeria find themselves in a precarious position and need a win in their next match at home against Hussars Poland on Sunday 24 February (19:00 local time) to stay within touching distance of the quarter-final qualification places. Russia are away to Argentina Condors the night before. There is all to fight for still.