Janibek Alimkhanuly is well aware that his last performance did not live up to his boogeyman reputation.

Adjustments were made during training camp to make sure that he never again looks like anything other than the fighter that no other middleweight wants to face.

For now, the unbeaten Kazakhstani has a willing opponent in Montreal’s Steven Butler (32-3-1, 26KOs). Their WBO title fight headlines an ESPN telecast this Saturday from Stockton Arena in Stockton, California. It comes six months after Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8KOs) was made to look human in a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over England’s Denzel Bentley in his first title defense last November 12 in Las Vegas.

“My last fight, we went the full twelve rounds and I felt like something was missing,” Alimkhanuly admitted during the final pre-fight press conference. “So, we added a strength and conditioning coach which has helped me out.

“I had a very good preparation and really enjoyed training with Buddy McGirt and everyone at Brickhouse (Boxing Club in North Hollywood, California).”

Alimkhanuly had only been extended beyond the eighth round once prior to his last outing. The 30-year-old southpaw entered as the newly upgraded WBO 160-pound titlist who’d stopped his last six opponents. Much was made about the unwillingness of his divisional peers to share the ring with him—namely Demetrius Andrade, who ultimately vacated the title, and Jaime Munguia, whose team twice ignored invitations from the WBO to enter talks for such a fight.  

Bentley didn’t show any fear in their fight, which went the full twelve-round distance. There came a line of reasoning that perhaps it would be easier for Alimkhanuly to land the more desirable matchups in the division after not appearing as destructive as was the case in preceding bouts.

To his credit, the man himself dismissed that logic and would rather restore his image as the deepest threat in a division in desperate need of a leader.

“I want to grow,” admitted Alimkhanuly. “I wanted to fight [WBC titlist Jermall] Charlo. I wanted to fight [WBA titlist Erislandy] Lara. If I get those fights, I have to be at my best. This is why I’ve added the best coaches to my team.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox