Janibek Alimkhanuly makes his second defense of his WBO middleweight belt against the motivated Steven Butler this Saturday, May 13th, on ESPN at Stockton Arena. The card begins at 10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+ at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Janibek Alimkhanuly hired a new conditioning coach for this fight to improve his stamina after he gassed out in his previous bout against British fighter Denzel Bentley last November.
That fight saw Janibek fade down the stretch and absorb more punishment than he and his training camp would have liked from the heavy-handed Bentley.
Butler, 27, is the wrong opponent for Janibek to gas out against because he’s a bigger puncher than Bentley, and he could take the WBO champion out if he can take him into deeper waters on Saturday night.
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“I prepared very well for this fight. I think it will be a great fight this Saturday night.”
“I got a new conditioning coach because I understand it will help me. I wanted to unify. I wanted to fight Jermall Charlo. I wanted to fight Erislandy Lara.”
It’s unlikely that Top Rank will be able to set up a unification fight between Janibek and one of the other champions at 160. WBC belt holder Jermall Charlo hasn’t fought in two years, and he won’t want to mix it with a hard puncher like Janibek when or if he does resume his career at some point.
The 40-year-old WBA champion Erislandy Lara is too long in the tooth to want to mix it with a southpaw like Janibek.
If he had the popularity of Gennadiy Golovkin or Canelo Alvarez, Lara would jump at the chance to fight Janibek. Still, unfortunately, he doesn’t have a large following in the U.S. Hence, the fight card is being staged in undercard fighter lightweight Gabriel Flores Jr’s hometown of Stockton.
“I’m 100 percent ready. I greatly respect Janibek for giving me the opportunity, but he’ll be making a big mistake if he tries to think past me. I want to knock him out. I want the belt. That’s it.”
“It’s a dream come true. We have worked a long time for this title shot.”
Butler comes into Saturday’s contest with a four-fight winning after losing to journeyman Jose de Jesus Macias in 2021 and Ryota Murata in 2019 in a pair of fifth round knockout defeats.