Janibek Alimkhanuly Wins On Points In WBO Defense
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.
JANIBEK IS CLOSING WITH ALL THE FIREPOWER 💥 pic.twitter.com/sqaVo7GGii
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 13, 2022
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 116-110 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.”
Janibek started fast
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.”
What’s next for Alimkhanuly?
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.”