Denzel Bentley definitely considers Janibek Alimkhanuly the toughest opponent of his career.
The British middleweight contender respects what the WBO 160-pound champion accomplished as an amateur and how he has progressed thus far as a professional prizefighter. The London native just doesn’t think Kazakhstan’s Alimkhanuly (12-0, 8 KOs) has proven himself as an elite-level boxer.
Handicappers have consistently listed Alimkhanuly as 20-1 favorite to win their 12-round main event Saturday night at Pearl Concert Theater inside Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas (ESPN+). Bentley didn’t hesitate, however, when the WBO’s 14th-rated challenger was offered a difficult fight that many contenders turned down.
“I think by the public he’s viewed as very dangerous,” Bentley told BoxingScene.com. “I wouldn’t say he’s overrated because, you know, he’s one of them guys that’s had a big amateur background and has come over and, you know, dominated from the beginning of his career. And I feel like that’s the new kind of thing right now, where young fighters – well, he’s not really young – but I mean fighters coming over, whether it’s from abroad or here in America, with a huge Olympic background and then they get fast-tracked.
“So, we’ve seen that a few times. It’s allowed, but he still hasn’t proven himself at the highest level. You know, he didn’t beat a world champion to get his belt, even though he had beat some good fighters. But I think his credit still needs to be justified a little bit. But he’s done well. He’s done everything asked of him, beaten who was in front of him. He’s been in one close fight [a split-decision defeat of Vaughn Alexander], but that’s about it.”
The 29-year-old Alimkhanuly won the WBO interim middleweight title when he knocked out overmatched Englishman Danny Dignum (14-1-1, 8 KOs) in the second round May 21 at Resorts World Las Vegas. The WBO elevated Alimkhanuly to middleweight champion when Demetrius Andrade decided to remain in the super middleweight division rather than returning to the 160-pound division to defend his WBO belt.
Bentley (17-1-1, 14 KOs) has paid close attention to Alimkhanuly’s emergence and always believed they would fight at some point.
“I think he’s a very good fighter,” Bentley said. “He’s very relaxed in the ring. You know, he’s very calm. He doesn’t give in to any pressure. He doesn’t overreact to anything. That’s what allows his work to flow. He’s got good feet. He’s a good fighter, man. I don’t really want to point out any of his flaws because, one, I don’t really count on someone else’s flaws to win a fight. I think I’ve just gotta take their best attributes away from them. That’s what I need to win. I’m not focused on his flaws, even though I have seen a few.”
The 27-year-old Bentley has won each of his three fights, two by technical knockout, since British rival Felix Cash (15-0, 10 KOs) stopped him while Bentley was still standing during the third round of their May 2021 fight for the British middleweight title at York Hall in London.
Alimkhanuly-Bentley will headline a nine-fight card ESPN+ is scheduled to start streaming at 7:15 p.m. ET. Seniesa Estrada (22-0, 9 KOs), of East Los Angeles, will defend her WBA minimumweight championship against Argentina’s Jazmin Gala Villarino (6-1-2, 1 KO) in the 10-round co-feature before Alimkhanuly battles Bentley.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.