Janibek Alimkhanuly is still not particularly known to anyone other than the most hardcore boxing fans, but there’s a good chance he’s the best middleweight in the world.
WBA Champion Erislandy Lara turns 40 and hasn’t fought WBC Champion Jermall Charlo in nearly two years. Given that the IBF title is vacant, Alimkhanuly probably sits at the top of the class.
He looked like a Saturday star in Stockton, Calif., when he perished MontrealStephen Butler in the second round in their match for Alimkhanuly’s WBO Championship.
Referee Jack Reese gave Butler an unusually long leash, and Butler went down three times in the seconds before Reese stopped him. It was a jump left and a series of left hands behind that put Butler down for the first time and, for all intents and purposes, ended the fight.
Butler rose to his very shaky legs but Reese let him continue. Twice more, Alikhanoli punished and knocked him down before Rhys saw enough and mercifully stopped him.
Alimkhanoli, now 14-0 with nine knockouts, hit hard in his post-fight encounter, calling out Charlo as well as Canelo Alvarez. Alvarez has other things ahead of him, but if Charlo decides to come back, a fight with Alimhanoli would be great.
“Champions and boxing stars, where are you?” Janibek said after putting Butler away. “I’m waiting. Let’s have a fight.”
He didn’t get much of a fight from Butler. Legendary trainer Paddy McGirt gave him Alimkhanoli advice after the first round. He told Alimhanoli to close the distance and use his feet to enter. Alimhanoli did as instructed and scored an impressive win.
His countryman from Kazakhstan, Gennady Golovkin, may be Alimkhanuli’s biggest competition as the best middleweight in the world right now, though there are plenty of signs that Golovkin may be walking away from the game.
Alimkhanuly is long, ringing, southern paw and strong, so it will be hard for anyone. Butler didn’t remind anyone of Marvelous Marvin Hagler, but it was an amazing performance nonetheless.
“I am the middleweight king,” Alikhanoli said. “Let’s go: fight. Highest rank, who’s next? Who’s next?”