Janibek Alimkhanuly honored his word and delivered a statement-making win.
It came versus a badly overmatched Steven Butler, who was floored three times in a second-round knockout at the hands of the Kazakhstani southpaw. Referee Jack Reiss gave Butler every chance to continue before finally calling for an end to the WBO middleweight title fight at 2:35 of round two in their ESPN-televised main event Saturday evening from Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.
The left uppercut was key for Alimkhanuly in setting up the fall for Butler in round two after a slow-moving opening round. The weapon of choice snapped back the head of Buter before a volley of punches sent him to the canvas. Reiss issued the eight count and then his signature sobriety test which provided Butler with valuable additional time to recover.
It didn’t quite take, as Alimkhanuly virtually repeated the sequence to send him to the canvas moments later. It came shortly after Reiss called time during a brief break in the action to gauge Butler’s awareness. The second knockdown was met with another eight count and a warning to show something before the third man in the ring would have to step in and end the night.
Almkhanuly closed the show in ‘Qazaq’ style. A final uppercut found Butler’s chin before a left hand slammed across his chin to produce the third and final knockdown. The fight was immediately waved off by Reiss, which sparked the well-deserved celebration in the corner of the unbeaten titlist.
Butler snapped a four-fight win streak as he fell to 32-4-1 (26KOs). The defeat was his second with a title of sorts at stake but his first for a full version of a title. He suffered a fifth-round knockout to Ryota Murata in a December 2019 bid for Murata’s then WBA ‘Regular’ title. A fifth-round stoppage to Jose de Jesus Macias in his next fight more than a year later prompted changes in his camp which in part attributed to the win streak he enjoyed prior to Saturday.
Instead, Butler heads back to Canada emptyhanded and once again forced to rebuild.
Alimkhanuly advanced to 14-0 (9KOs) with the win. The performance was a marked upgraded from his twelve-round, decision win over England’s Denzel Bentley last November 12 in Las Vegas. Alimkhanuly made a point to hire a new strength and conditioning coach, which was reflected on his career-light 159.2-pound frame at Friday’s weigh-in.
The win was the second defense of the WBO middleweight title for Alimkhanuly, whose reign was upgraded from interim title status achieved in a second-round knockout of Danny Dignum last May 21 in Las Vegas. With the win will come his continued callouts of WBC middleweight titlist Jermall Charlo—who has not fought since June 2021—and WBA titleholder Erislandy Lara, inactive since last May 28 and who will next face Danny Garcia later this summer.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox