No KO, no problem as Alimkhanuly outpoints Bentley to retain 160 title
Estrada dominates Villarino to retain her strawweight belt; prospects Muratalla, Vargas notch knockout victories
A note to Fight Freaks Unite readers: I created Fight Freaks Unite in January 2021 and eight months later it also became available for paid subscriptions for additional content — and as a way to help keep this newsletter going and for readers to support independent journalism. If you haven’t upgraded to a paid subscription please consider it. If you have already, I truly appreciate it! Also, consider a gift subscription for the Fight Freak in your life.
Janibek Alimkhanuly did not record an early knockout as most expected — including himself — but he did more than enough against Denzel Bentley to win a unanimous decision and retain the WBO middleweight title in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card Saturday night at The Palms in Las Vegas.
Alimkhanuly, who made his first title defense since being elevated from interim titlist when Demetrius Andrade vacated to move up in weight rather than face him, won 116-112 on two scorecards and a surprisingly wide 118-110 on the third.
Alimkhanuly had been plowing through opponents with ease, including by one-sided second-round knockout of Bentley’s British countryman Danny Dignum to win the interim 160-pound belt in his last fight in May. But Bentley proved to be a much tougher customer.
“It’s boxing. Anything can happen in the ring,” Alimkhanuly said though manager and interpreter Egis Klimas. “He came prepared. I respect my opponent because he was really prepared. He was 100 percent, but I am a champion and I fought all 12 rounds as a champion.
“It’s the first time I went 12 rounds and I am sure me and the team will be watching the fight and seeing what we have to learn and work on.”
Alimkhanuly, a southpaw, got off to a strong start pushing Bentley back and sweeping the first four rounds on two scorecards and three of the first four on the third card.
He applied pressure and landed strong straight left hands, but Bentley stood up to them and then had a good fifth round that gave the impression that Alimkhanuly was in for a much longer fight than he anticipated.
“In the fifth round, my coach (Ray Bull) told me we weren’t in front and to pick up the pace, so I picked up the pace,” Bentley said. “I was boxing to my corner’s orders.
“The plan was to see what he has in the first couple of rounds, see what I can take, take a couple of shots on the gloves, don’t rush into your work, because he’s waiting for me to rush in and counter me. And then pick up the pace in the middle to late rounds, and I thought that’s what I done.”
As Bentley’s confidence rose after taking solid shots, he began to also come forward in the second half of the fight.
Bentley (17-2-1, 14 KOs), 27, landed a few stinging right hands and his defenses was good enough that even though he was getting touched by punches, he was able to avoid taking them cleanly.
A body shot from Alimkhanuly in the 10th round did appear to hurt him and after the round Alimkhanuly’s Hall of Fame trainer, Buddy McGirt, begged him to continue to push Bentley back going into the 11th round and he did just that, although Bentley also tried to do the same, resulting in exciting exchanges.
McGirt told Alimkhanuly after the 11th that he needed the final round.
“You gotta win this round big! You need this round,” he said.
Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KOs), 29, a 2016 Olympic quarterfinalist for Kazakhstan, responded and had perhaps his best round of the fight. He shook Bentley with shots early in the round and was all over him in the first minute. He landed a powerful left that backed Bentley up and then with 20 second to go landed a left uppercut.
But as he had done throughout the bout, Bentley shook it off and they finished the fight swinging at each other in the center of the ring.
According to CompuBox statistics, Alimkhanuly landed 187 of 535 punches (35 percent) — career highs in both categories — and Bentley landed 159 of 615 (26 percent). Alimkhanuly outlanded him in nine rounds, including landing a fight-high 27 shots in the 12th round.
Bentley’s team didn’t complain about the decision, but showed irritation at judge Steve Weisfeld’s 118-110 scorecard.
“We lost the early rounds. We told him to step it up in the fifth round. He done what we told him,” Bull said. “I was a little disappointed with the judge who had it 118. I think the other judges got it spot on. We ain’t got no complaint about that.”
Bentley said he didn’t listen to all the pre-fight predictions of an early KO win for Alimkhanuly.
“That’s just people’s opinion. I didn’t come in with that mindset,” Bentley said. “How people think outside the ring has nothing to do with me.
“I thought I was coming out as world champion tonight. So I didn’t shock myself. In fact — a bit harsh words — but I let myself down. We go to the gym, we get better and I believe I can be a world champion. I showed that tonight. I’m just gonna continue my quest to try to become world champion.”
While Alimkhanuly may not have had the sort of dominating performances he turned in during his previous three fights — back-to-back eighth-round knockouts of former world titleholders Rob Brant and Hassan N’Dam in 2021 and the wipeout of Dignum — McGirt said he was pleased how he fought.
“Listen, he’s world champion, and I still say he’s the best middleweight,” McGirt said. “I’m taking nothing away from (Bentley) because I told Janibek before the fight, ‘This guy has everything to gain and nothing to lose. So, he’s going to put on the line.’ And he did it. Much respect to him and his team.
“It was a good lesson for us tonight. When you get five straight knockouts you think you’re gonna knock everyone out. He was looking for the one punch early. Then he loosened up and I said, ‘You just gotta back this guy up. We can’t let this guy come forward,’ and he went out and executed, so I am very proud of him. He did what he had to do to retain his title.”
What Alimkhanuly hopes to do is win another belt. He wants a unification fight even if getting one is highly unlikely for the time being. WBC titlist Jermall Charlo has been idle since June 2021 due to a back injury and outside the ring issues and IBF/WBO champion Gennadiy Golovkin, Alimkhanuly’s countryman, has a mandatory defense due in his next fight.
“I am ready for any champion, for unifications,” Alimkhanuly said. “I am ready to fight anybody. Let’s fight.”
Estrada shuts out Villarino
Seniesa “Super Bad” Estrada, who returned to the ring for the first time in 11 months and was in her first fight since signing with Top Rank in July, looked sharp in a shutout decision victory over Jazmin Gala Villarino to retain the WBA women’s strawweight title in the co-feature.
Estrada, who retained her 105-pound belt for the second time, won 100-90 on all three scorecards.
“It’s been an emotional week for me because it’s been 328 days since I’ve been in the ring,” Estrada said. “And I just want to tell all girls and all women in sports to always believe in yourself and always believe in what you can do and always go after what you want. I might’ve been slowed down, but I can’t be stopped. This is what I was born to do. This is the talent God has given me, and this is my destiny and you cannot stop destiny.”
It was an entertaining action fight but Estrada was in command all the way as she landed many more punches and was much quicker.
An accidental head butt left Villarino (6-2-2, 1 KO), 32, of Argentina, who was fighting outside of her home country for the third fight in a row, with a swollen left cheek by the end of the second round. However, Villarino was game and never stopped advancing. She got in some good shots but mostly just one at a time while Estrada landed numerous combinations.
Estrada (23-0, 9 KOs), 30, of Los Angeles, who has also won a junior flyweight world title, landed a clean left hook in the seventh round that stopped Villarino in her tracks. Villarino had perhaps her best round in the 10th but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.
Estrada outlanded Villarino in every round except the 10th (24-19), according to CompuBox. Overall, she landed 210 of 580 punches (36 percent) and Villarino 121 of 432 (28 percent).
“After 11 months, we were prepared for her to come in and win,” Estrada said. “I’m the best opponent she’s faced, and she wanted to defeat me. I was prepared to go 10 round or get the knockout. I shook the ring rust off and I’m ready to go for unification fights and undisputed (title) fights.”
Muratalla hammers Contreras
Robert Garcia-trained lightweight prospect Raymond “Danger” Muratalla (16-0, 13 KOs), 25, of Fontana, California, thrashed Miguel Contreras (12-2-1, 6 KOs), 24, of Bakersfield, California, throughout the fight until stopping him with an onslaught of punches in the sixth round of their eight-round preliminary bout.
Muratalla pounded Contreras to the head and body with a two-handed attack until badly hurting him with an uppercut and then pouring it on, forcing referee Mike Ortega to step in at 2 minutes, 23 seconds.
Vargas shines in TR debut
In his first fight since signing with Top Rank earlier this month, lightweight Emiliano Vargas, 18, of Las Vegas, who is one of the fighting sons of former junior middleweight champion Fernando Vargas, scored a sensational one-punch knockout with a left hook against Julio Martinez in the second round of their scheduled four-rounder.
Vargas (2-0, 2 KOs) took several clean shots in the competitive first round and more in the second but after one of them, he fired a hook to the chin that laid out Martinez (1-1, 1 KO), 19, of South Bend, Indiana, at 47 seconds.
“The dude was a sturdy guy. He came in there to fight,” Vargas said. “I know he prepared himself 140 percent, and I prepared myself 140 percent. I just had to listen to my corner, my father, keep on boxing, and the shots will open up. Just box beautifully.”
Photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Please upgrade your subscription here: https://danrafael.substack.com/subscribe
Thank you so much for your support of Fight Freaks Unite!
Follow me on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/danrafael1/
Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/DanRafael1
Follow me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/DanRafaelBoxing