Notebook: Janibek would prefer better challenger than Bentley
Edwards outpoints Alvarado to retain flyweight title; WBC won't rank Russians; TR adds to Lopez-Pedraza card; Quick hits; Show and tell
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High risk, low reward. That is the situation WBO middleweight titleholder Janibek Alimkhanuly finds himself in.
Alimkhanuly is a dangerous fighter with excellent power and a deep amateur background as a 2016 Olympic quarterfinalist for Kazakhstan. When he has stepped up to face better opposition he has won in destructive fashion, scoring back-to-back one-sided eighth-round knockouts in 2021 of former titleholders Rob Brant and Hassan N’Dam.
And in his first fight of 2022, Alimkhanuly smoked poor Danny Dignum in the second round in May to claim the WBO interim belt before being elevated to full titleholder when Demetrius Andrade, himself avoided for so many years, did the same thing and fled the division to super middleweight rather than go near Alimkhanuly.
The combination of the difficulty Alimkhanuly likely would pose to any middleweight and that he does not bring a big name or big money to the table makes it hard to lure better known opponents into the ring.
So, now Alimkhanuly heads into his first defense of the full belt when he meets one of the few opponents willing to fight him in the largely unknown Denzel Bentley.
They will square off in the main event of the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card on Saturday (11 p.m. ET main card, prelims 7:15 p.m. ET) at The Palms in Las Vegas.
While Alimkhanuly appreciates Bentley’s willingness to take the fight, he also lamented the lack of interest from any of the top fighters in the division, although opponents such as unified titleholder Gennadiy Golovkin, who recently fought, and titlist Jermall Charlo, who has been idle since June 2021 due injury and outside of the ring issues, were unavailable.
“I don’t know why nowadays champions don’t want to fight with the other champions,” Alimkhanuly said through an interpreter at the pre-fight news conference on Thursday. “I don’t think they should be afraid. I am here. I am a champion now. I am here to fight the champions.”
Bentley (17-1-1, 14 KOs), 27, is not a champion but was at least willing to cross the pond from his native England for the opportunity.
He has won three fights in a row since a third-round knockout loss to countryman Felix Cash in British and Commonwealth title fight in April 2021, a loss that certainly appears not to bode well for him as he takes a mighty step up in class versus Alimkhanuly. But he is here to take his shot.
“This means a lot. We’re at the top of the sport now,” said Bentley, who will be in his first bout outside of England. “This is what I’ve dreamed of as a fighter. This is what every fighter dreams of. It’s the opportunity of a lifetime to be here in Vegas and fight for the WBO world championship against the champion himself. You’re going to see something special.”
Alimkhanuly (12-0, 8 KOs), 29, believes that something special will be him notching another knockout.
“Last time (I fought), it was just the beginning of my knockout career,” Alimkhanuly said. “I hope God will (give me the strength) to do much better, and you can see all of my good punches.”
Bentley didn’t take that personally.
“He’s meant to say that. He wants to keep his KO streak,” Bentley said. “We’re in for a good fight Saturday.”
Alimkhanuly didn’t mention how good he thought the fight might be. He’s thinking knockout and then he wants a bigger, better fight.
“Hopefully, Top Rank can organize a fight with another world champion next,” Alimkhanuly said.
In the co-feature, Seniesa Estrada (22-0, 9 KOs), 30, of Los Angeles, will defend the WBA women’s strawweight title for the second time when she meets Jazmin Gala Villarino (6-1-2, 1 KO), 32, of Argentina.
The fight will be Estrada’s first since signing with Top Rank in July as she returns from an 11-month layoff.
Edwards retains flyweight title
Sunny Edwards retained the IBF flyweight title by clear unanimous decision over former junior flyweight titlist Felix Alvarado in a mandatory defense on Friday in the main event of a Probellum card at Utilita Arena in Sheffield, England, Edwards’ hometown.
Edwards won 116-112, 115-113 and 115-113 to retain the 112-pound belt for the third time.
“Every time I’m fighting I’m trying to test myself,” Edwards said. “Felix Alvarado is a phenomenal puncher and I sat there and mixed it with him. I showed I could ride shots, take shots, throw my own shots, and if I can do that against him then I can do it against anyone. He was a very hard puncher but I would not be denied.”
Edwards (19-0, 4 KOs), 26, was not denied, using his superior skills, movement and speed to outbox Alvarado (38-3, 33 KOs), 33, of Nicaragua, the former IBF junior flyweight titleholder, who vacated the belt last year to move up in weight.
“I had the fight 8-4 or 9-3 (in rounds) in my favor,” Edwards said. “I don’t know what the some of the scorecards were about. I went up clear and then coasted it from there.”
Next, Edwards aims to land a bigger fight. He had hoped to fight WBC titlist Julio Cesar Martinez in a bout the camps were negotiating for September before Martinez walked away during the summer. He also would like to face Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez, who recently vacated the WBC junior bantamweight title to move down in weight to challenge for the vacant WBO flyweight title.
“I want the big fights. Martinez, he’s running scared,” Edwards said. “‘Bam’ Rodriguez you promised me the fight next. Come and get it.”
BetUS Boxing Show
If you missed the BetUS Boxing Show live at 1 p.m. ET on Friday on YouTube, please check out the replay (and also subscribe to the YouTube channel). We previewed and picked three fights scheduled on Saturday, the two world title bouts on the Top Rank card on ESPN+ — Janibek Alimkhanuly’s WBO middleweight title defense against Denzel Bentley and the co-feature of Seniesa Estrada’s WBA women’s strawweight title defense versus Jazmin Gala Villarino — and the junior welterweight fight between Montana Love and Steve Spark that headlines the Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN. As always, we also enjoyed taking viewer questions and comments. Please check out the show here:
WBC drops ranked Russians
In one of the many items determined at this week’s annual WBC convention in Acapulco, Mexico, the sanctioning body ruled that it would drop all ranked fighters from Russia and Belarus due to the ongoing and unprovoked war being waged against Ukraine that began in February.
The organization also will continue not sanctioning bouts that take place in Russia or Belarus.
“It is very unfortunate it has come to this decision,” WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman said. “It affects the boxers, promoters and trainers of those countries. But Ukraine has had to suspend all boxing activity with this invasion. There is a war on their soil and their sporting facilities have been destroyed. It is something that is hurting the whole world. We feel very, very sad about it. We have to wait and hope for peace.
“This decision now is inspired by the WBC’s stance against apartheid. That involved discrimination, the abuse of power and human dignity. This is the world talking. It’s not one person, one federation or one group. The WBC’s more than 100 affiliated nations are looking for peace. We are striving for justice.”
Soon after the war began, the WBC stopped sanctioning fights in Russia or Belarus and it reaffirmed that decision at the convention.
There is only one current WBC world titleholder from Russia, three-belt unified champion Artur Beterbiev. The ruling will not impact him because he fights under the Canadian flag. He has lived and boxed out of Montreal for his entire professional career.
The WBC said that any fighters from Russia or Belarus permanently living in other countries or who have become a citizen of another country are eligible to box for WBC belts, regional or world, and be in the rankings. The WBC said it will reconsider the ruling when Ukraine is able to return to normal boxing activity.
Tiger Johnson added to Lopez-Pedraza
Top Rank announced that junior welterweight prospect Tiger Johnson, a 2020 U.S. Olympian, has been added to the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card headlined by the Teofimo Lopez-Jose Pedraza junior welterweight bout on Dec. 10 at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Johnson (6-0, 4 KOs), 24, of Cleveland, Ohio, will have his first scheduled eight-rounder against Mike O’Han Jr. (16-1, 9 KOs), of Holbrook, Massachusetts, who has won seven fights in a row.
The bout will be part of the ESPN+ stream of preliminaries beginning at 6 p.m. ET. The main card (ESPN, ESPN Deportes, ESPN+) begins at 9 p.m. ET.
“Madison Square Garden is the biggest stage in boxing, and I plan on making a huge statement against a tough opponent in Mike O’Han,” Johnson said. “I am ready to put the 140-pound weight class on notice. I’m going to close out 2022 strong and start climbing the rankings in 2023.”
Among other bouts added to the undercard: a six-round light heavyweight bout between 2016 Irish Olympian Joe Ward (7-1, 4 KOs), 29, and Frederic Julan (12-1, 10 KOs), 34, of Brooklyn, New York, and Brooklyn featherweight prospect Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington (5-0, 3 KOs), 25, against Juan Tapia (12-4, 4 KOs), 29, of Brownsville, Texas, in an eight-rounder.
Weights from Las Vegas for Saturday’s Top Rank/ESPN+ card (7:15 p.m. ET): Janibek Alimkhanuly 159.6 pounds, Denzel Bentley 159 (for Alimkhanuly’s WBO middleweight title); Seniesa Estrada 103.8, Jazmin Gala Villarino 105 (for Estrada's WBA strawweight title); Raymond Muratalla 135, Miguel Contreras 135.2; Emiliano Vargas 133.8, Julio Martinez 134; Javier Martinez 162.6, Marco Delgado 162.6; Floyd Diaz 122.4, Edgar Joe Cortes 122.2; Charlie Sheehy 135, Markus Bowes 135.6; Karlos Balderas 135.4, Esteban Sanchez 135.2; Antonio Mireles 269.6, Eric Perry 279.8.
Weights from Cleveland for Saturday’s Matchroom/DAZN card (7:30 p.m. ET): Montana Love 140 pounds, Steve Spark 140; Richardson Hitchins 140, Yomar Alamo 138.5; Raymond Ford 126, Sakaria Lukas 128; Christian Tapia 129.5, Thomas Mattice 129.5; Beatriz Ferreira 130.5, Taynna Cardoso 131; Nikoloz Sekhniashvili 153.5, David Rodriguez 155; Raynell Williams 130.5, Ryizeemmion Ford 131; Khalil Coe 174, Bradley Olmeda 175.5.
The fallout from Conor Benn’s positive drug test for the banned substance Clomifene that caused the cancelation of his massively hyped 157-pound catch weight fight with Chris Eubank Jr. days before the Oct. 8 bout in London continues. At this week’s annual WBC convention, Benn (21-14 KOs), 26, of England, who had been rated No. 5 at welterweight, was dropped from the rankings during the organization’s rankings update. Also, the WBO, which rated Benn No. 4, sent him a letter giving him 10 days to “show cause” as to why the organization should not suspend him from its ratings.
Chris Eubank Jr. (32-3, 23 KOs), 33, in search of a notable fight following the cancellation of the showdown with Conor Benn due to Benn’s failed drug test coming to light days before the scheduled Oct. 8 bout, is on the verge of finalizing a middleweight bout with British countryman and former junior middleweight titlist Liam Smith (32-3-1, 19 KOs), 34, who would move up in weight for the bout, which is being eyed for early 2023. Eubank promoter Kalle Sauerland of Wasserman Boxing and Smith promoter Ben Shalom of Boxxer have been working on the details.
When the WBC approved unified junior featherweight titlist Stephen Fulton (21-0, 8 KOs), 28, of Philadelphia, to fight for its interim featherweight title during the annual convention this week, it also approved him to face former unified junior featherweight titleholder Brandon Figueroa in a rematch of their all-action November 2021 unification fight that Fulton won by majority decision. Since that loss, Figueroa (23-1-1, 18 KOs), 25, of Weslaco, Texas, moved up to featherweight and knocked out Carlos Castro in a WBC featherweight title eliminator in July. The ruling means the rematch is likely to happen given they are both with PBC and fight on Showtime. The interim title is available because titlist Rey Vargas will have his next fight against O’Shaquie Foster for the vacant WBC junior lightweight belt, after which he’ll have to decide which division to remain in.
Strawweight titleholders Masataki Taniguchi and Daniel Valladares will defend their belts against separate opponents on a doubleheader slated for Jan. 6 at EDION Arena in Osaka, Japan, KWORLD3 — the promotional outfit headed by former world titleholders Koki and Daiki Kameda — announced on Friday. Taniguchi (16-3, 11 KOs), 28, a Japanese southpaw, will defend the WBO 105-pound title for the second time when he faces Melvin Jerusalem (19-2, 11 KOs), 28, of the Philippines, who failed in a 2017 shot at the WBC belt. Valladares (26-3-1, 15 KOs), 28, of Mexico, will make his first IBF defense against Ginjiro Shigeoka (8-0, 6 KOs), 23, a Japanese southpaw.
Promoter Don King, 91, announced Friday that he has signed cruiserweight contender Noel Mikaelyan (26-2, 11 KOs), 32, of Germany. The signing all but assures that Mikaelyan will challenge WBC titlist Ilunga Makabu, who King also promotes. “Noel Mikaelyan believes that there is no one out there he can’t beat,” said King, who missed this week’s WBC convention because he was under the weather. “Both (Mikaelyan and Makabu) feel they are the world’s best. My mission has always been to give the people what they want and pit the best against the best. What a super sensational attraction that would be if these two fighters would eventually meet.” Mikaelyan has won three fights in a row since a competitive decision loss to Mairis Breidis in 2018 in the World Boxing Super Series.
Golden Boy announced it has signed Mexican super middleweight prospect Aaron Silva (10-0, 7 KOs), 25, to a promotional deal. Silva was last seen scoring a fourth-round knockout of then-unbeaten Alexis Espino on the Canelo Alvarez-Dmitry Bivol undercard in May. “I am very happy to begin a new stage in my career with my new promoter Golden Boy Promotions, who presented the best plan to grow in the sport,” Silva said. Golden Boy CEO Oscar De La Hoya added, “Golden Boy has been in the boxing business long enough to see potential star power, and to develop fighters into powerhouses and world champions. We see elements of that hunger to be the best in Aaron Silva, and are excited to have him under our promotional banner to help foster his growth in the middleweight division.”
Show and tell
The first fight between late Hall of Fame legends Aaron Pryor and Alexis Arguello is, quite simply, one of the 10 best fights in boxing history. They met at the Orange Bowl in Miami, where Arguello, a former featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight champion, was the big crowd favorite and attempting to become the first boxer to win a world title in four divisions as he challenged Pryor, who was making his sixth junior welterweight title defense. It was a fantastic battle featuring non-stop back-and-forth action at the highest skill level. Ultimately, Pryor would not be denied and knocked out Arguello in the 14th round of what was later named 1980s fight of the decade by Ring magazine.
That all-time great fight was on Nov. 11, 1982 — 40 years ago on Saturday. I have obsessed over the bout for many years and although I do not have either rare version of the site poster in my collection, I do have three items from the fight: a press kit, an 8 1/2 x 11 thin cardboard advertising card and extremely rare program. One thing I’ve never been able to figure out is why the program (my copy pictured below) is legitimately rare in any condition. The fight was at a huge stadium with a big crowd, but I searched for a program for more than 20 years and saw maybe three of them, including the very high grade copy I miraculously purchased a few years ago. It’s one of the toughest to find big-fight programs that I am aware of.
Alimkhanuly-Bentley and Estrada-Villarino photos: Mikey Williams/Top Rank; Edwards-Alvarado photo: Probellum; Love-Spark photo: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom Boxing
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