There was never any hesitation on the part of Steven Butler once he was offered to challenge for the WBO middleweight title.
He didn’t care that he had to face the division’s perceived boogeyman, Kazakhstan’s Janibek Alimkhanuly who has struggled to land relevant opposition. It’s a familiar talent in what has rapidly become a faceless middleweight division—a culture that Butler hopes to change even as a longshot underdog this weekend.
“I don’t understand why anyone would box just to protect their record,” Butler told BoxingScene.com. “Me, I’m a guy who went all my life taking risks. Not just in boxing, in all ways of life. With my power, I believe I can beat anybody.
“It takes one punch, maybe two punches on his mouth and the fight will be mine.”
Alimkhanuly-Butler will headline a May 13 ESPN telecast from the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.
Montreal’s Butler (32-3-1, 26KOs) had a wide-open lane to land the title shot that failed to gauge the interest of anybody else in the barren middleweight division. Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8KOs) has watched previously ordered title fights and eliminators with Demetrius Andrade (32-0, 19KOs) and Jaime Munguia (41-0, 33KOs) never even make it through the negotiation stage.
Their acts come in a division where previously unified titlist Gennadiy Golovkin (42-2-1, 37KOs) recently chose to vacate the WBA and IBF titles in lieu of honoring mandatory title defense obligations.
Alimkhanuly ultimately settled for Butler, though the fight was only made official once the Canadian puncher—aptly nicknamed ‘Bang Bang’—was inserted into the WBO Top 15 rankings. Butler enters the fight having won his past four starts since a rough career patch where he suffered back-to-back fifth round knockout defeats. The first was in his previous title bid, when he fell miserably short versus then-WBA ‘Regular’ middleweight titlist Ryota Murata in their December 2019 battle in Yokohama, Japan.
Following his ten-round victory over Joshua Conley last December 16 in Shawnigan, Canada, Butler and his team decided it was time to make another run towards a major title. He enters this weekend’s ESPN headliner as a massive +1000 underdog according to bet365 sportsbook, which lists Alimkhanuly as a whopping -2500 favorite.
None of that dulls the dream that the 26-year-old Butler has carried since donning his first pair of boxing gloves more than 15 years ago.
“My goal was always to become world champion,” noted Butler. “When I fought Ryota Murata, it was the same reason. To be champion, I need to beat this guy. I got no choice but to accept the fight and go for it.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox