WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly (14-0, 9 KOs) looked devastatingly powerful & lethal, knocking out the hapless challenger Steven Butler (32-4-1, 26 KOs) in the second round on Saturday night in a mismatch at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.
Whatever chance the 27-year-old Butler had of winning went out the window after the 2016 Olympian Janibek nailed him with a tremendous left uppercut in round two that wobbled him badly. Janibek then dropped Butler moments later after hammering him with several hard shots.
The referee Jack Reiss could have arguably halted the fight when Butler returned to his feet because his legs were gone, but he allowed the battle to continue. Janibek then dropped Butler two more times before Reiss stopped the fight.
Australian Jason Moloney (26-2, 19 KOs) looked sensational tonight, beating Vincent Astrolabio (18-4, 13 KOs) by a twelve round majority decision to win the vacant WBO bantamweight title in the chief support bout. The scores:
- 115-113 – Moloney
- 116-112 – Moloney
Astrolabio chased Moloney around all night, missing wild shots and getting countered repeatedly with jabs and right hands. In the championship rounds, Astrolabio got frustrated at the movement by Moloney and roughed him up. In the twelfth, Astrolabio wrestled Moloney to the canvas, showing his frustration.
The boxing fans at ringside booed the lack of action, as they clearly wanted Moloney to stand and brawl with the more powerful Astrolabio, but that would have been silly.
Moloney used his technical skills to prevent Astrolabio from being able to land his big power shots, and it was a wise thing to do. After Moloney’s loss to Naoya Inoue in 2020, the last thing he wanted to do is stand and trade with another huge puncher like Astrolabio.
Hometown star Gabriel Flores Jr (22-2, 8 KOs) scored a highlight reel first round knockout over Derrick Murray (17-9-1, 6 KOs) in super featherweight action. The time of the stoppage was at 0:27 of round one.
Flores Jr, 23, landed a big left hook to the head that Murray’s never saw coming, and he fell to the canvas flat on his back, looking hurt.
The referee quickly stepped in and stopped the fight on the spot. Murray landed a left hook of his own on the jaw of Flores Jr, but the Stockton native was able to instinctively fire off a left hook of his own that knocked Murray down.
Ruben Villa (20-1, 7 KOs) was too good for his overmatched tune-up level opponent Maickol Lopez Villagrana (16-5, 8 KOs), scoring a fifth round referee’s stoppage. The fight was stopped at 1:55 mark.
The referee stepped in and waived it off after Villa landed a right hand that caused Villagrana to fall helplessly into the ropes. A round earlier, Villa knocked Villagrana down with a left hook to the chin.
The win for Villa was his second since losing to Emanuel Navarrete by a 12 round decision in 2020.
In a disappointing contest, middleweights Javier Martinez (8-0-1, 2 KOs) & Joeshon James (7-0-1, 4 KOs) battled to an eight round split draw. James looked strong early, landing many nice shots, but then faded toward the end.
The judges’ scores were 79-73 for Martinez, 77-75 for James, and 76-76.
Unbeaten featherweight Amado Fernando Vargas (7-0, 2 KOs) looked sharp tonight, beating Bernardo Manzano (2-5) by a one-sided four round unanimous decision.
Vargas put Manzano down with a beautiful right hand to the head in round one.
To his credit, the tough Manzano fought back and landed good shots, taking advantage of the 22-year-old Vargas’ porous defense. The scores were 40-35, 40-35, and 40-35.
Brian Norman Jr (24-0, 19 KOs) labored to an eight round unanimous decision against the tough Jesus Perez (24-5, 19 KOs) in welterweight action.
The fight was fought slowly and didn’t heat up until the seventh when Norman Jr stopped moving and let his hands go. Perez was cut over his right eye from an accidental head-butt in the seventh. The judges scored 77-75, 78-74, and 77-75.
Preview: Janibek is the favorite in tonight’s fight, but you can’t count Butler out. He’s got the power, youth, and high-pressure style that could prove to be kryptonite for the unbeaten champion from Kazakhstan.
Butler, 26, has a style that is similar to British fighter Anthony Fowler with the way he brawls on the inside. In the amateur ranks, Janibek defeated Fowler, but he had a lot of problems with his inside game.
For Butler, this will be the second time that he’s challenged for a world title. Four years ago, Butler was stopped by WBA middleweight champion Ryota Murata in the fifth round in Yokohama, Japan. Butler was only 23 at the time and not nearly experienced enough to be fighting a guy with Murata’s pedigree.
Butler has won his last four fights, albeit against second-tier opposition, but he feels he’s learned a lot from his defeat against Murata and is ready to capture a world title tonight against Janibek.
The blueprint is there for what Butler must do to defeat Janibek tonight. The 2016 Olympian Janibek doesn’t like dealing with pressure and getting hit hard.
Janibek, 30, has a lot of proving to do after the way he looked in his last title defense against Denzel Bentley last November.
That was a fight that looked knotted up at the end of twelve rounds, as the challenger Bentley had worn Janibek down with his pressure, and hard power shots
Tonight’s card will occur at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California. The main portion of the card starts at 10 pm ET on ESPN & ESPN+. The preliminary portion of the card starts at 6:40 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
The co-feature bout will have Jason Moloney (25-2, 19 KO) fighting for the vacant WBO bantamweight title against Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KO) in a 12 round bout.
WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly defends against challenger Steven Butler (33-3-1, 26 KOs) tonight on ESPN and ESPN+ in what should be a contest filled with fireworks from start to finish in this 12 round bout. Janibek (13-0, 8 KOs) wanted a bigger name, but his efforts at getting fights against Jaime Munguia and Liam Smith were empty.