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Currently sitting pretty at top of Group B with three wins from three, Astana Arlans Kazakhstan now face their hardest challenge of this early season when a formidable Dolce & Gabbana Italia Thunder line-up comes to the Almaty Sports Palace this Friday 14 December (20:30 local time). Bagdad Alimbekov, experienced Irishman Eric Donovan, and two-time World Series Boxing (WSB) Middleweight King Sergiy Derevyanchenko will be the ones relied upon to do the business for the home team.
Bantamweights (50-54kg) are up first as Alimbekov goes head-to-head with Italian pro boxer Daniele Limone. The 24-year-old Kazak southpaw will be in for one tough night against the tall Italia Thunder man. Alimbekov looked in great shape when he overpowered John Gregory Perez in his last WSB outing but Limone will represent a whole new challenge. The Italian, 28, is fast and agile and will be extra motivated to put behind him the defeat he suffered at the hands of Andrew Selby in week two.
Irish southpaw Donovan, a bronze medallist at the 2010 European Championships, will then be making his competitive debut for Kazakhstan when he faces the electric Serb Branimir Stankovic at Lightweight (57-61kg). The odds are stacked against the Arlans man in this one with Stankovic having demonstrated over the last year that he is one of the most exciting talents in this competition. The 21-year-old orthodox Serb confirmed his burgeoning reputation by claiming a sensational victory against London 2012 Olympic silver medallist John Joe Nevin in his last outing.
Middleweight (68-73kg) star Derevyanchenko came out bruised and battered but victorious from his last fight against the impressive Ukrainian Dmytro Mytrofanov. The unbeaten Arlans orthodox fighter is now set to find himself in the midst of another difficult battle when he is pitted against hard-hitting Frenchman Michel Tavares. Italia Thunder's newest recruit lost to Fred Evans by split decision in the second week of action and now has some scores to settle. The two have met before but this one promises to be much closer, it is guaranteed to be one of the outstanding bouts of the week-end.
After coming alive in the knockout stages for Kazakhstan last season, 24-year-old Uzbek Ramzjon Ahmedov re-affirmed his status as one of the most feared boxers in WSB. He will want to get his third campaign off to a good start versus 2011 Individual Light Heavyweights (80-85kg) Champion Abdelhafid Benchabla in the fourth bout of the evening. Recruited by Italia this summer, the lightening quick Algerian 26-year-old has underwhelmed so far and only came to life in the latter stages of his loss to Germany's Serge Michel. Against his former employers, Benchabla will have an opportunity for redemption.
Following a season out of the competition to concentrate on preparations for the Olympic Games, the much anticipated return to WSB of France's talented Heavyweight (91+kg) Tony Yoka is now upon us. The 20-year-old with a thunderous right will be donning Italia Thunder gloves for the very first time to lock horns with the home team's Mihai Nistor from Romania. There will be a huge difference in height here with Yoka set to tower over his opponent. It promises to be a real baptism of fire for Nistor.
It will be on a real knife-edge with Kazakhstan eager to remain undefeated going into the winter break. On the other hand, Italia have travelled with some of their top performers for maximum points in order to not lose more ground on the leaders in this Group.
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