Janibek “Qazaq Style” Alimkhanuly is ready to conquer the middleweight division one belt a time.
The reigning WBO world champion will lock horns against unbeaten IBF world champion Vincenzo Gualtieri in a title unification showdown on Saturday, Oct. 14 at Fort Bend Epicenter in Rosenberg, Texas. This will be the first boxing event to take place at the brand-new, state-of-the-art sports and entertainment venue, which opened its doors last week.
In the 10-round lightweight co-feature, U.S. Olympic silver medalist Keyshawn Davis takes another step up in class against Philadelphia-born contender Nahir Albright.
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with AGON Sports & Events, Janibek-Gualtieri and Davis-Albright will be broadcast live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.
"There’s no doubt in my mind that Janibek is the best middleweight in the world,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “He has a chance to prove that once again with a victory over a tough champion in Vincenzo Gualtieri. I’m also pleased to see the future of the lightweight division, Keyshawn Davis, take his biggest step up to date against Nahir Albright. Top Rank is thrilled to be hosting the first boxing event at Fort Bend Epicenter, where fans near the Houston area will be in for a real treat.”
Janibek (14-0, 9 KOs) is a 2016 Olympian from Zhilandy, Kazakhstan, who took the fast lane to becoming champion. In 2021, he scored knockout victories over former world champions Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam. He captured the WBO interim middleweight world title last May with a second-round destruction of Danny Dignum and was elevated to world champion after Demetrius Andrade vacated the title. Janibek has made two defenses, beating British champion Denzel Bentley via unanimous decision last November and blasting out Canadian contender Steven Butler via second-round stoppage in May.
Janibek said, “I am grateful for the opportunity to fight a fellow world champion. This fight gets me one step closer to becoming the undisputed middleweight champion, and I thank Vincenzo Gualtieri for putting his belt on the line. He is doing what the other champions have refused to do. I will, however, return home to Kazakhstan as a unified champion.”
Gualtieri (21-0-1, 7 KOs) debuted as a professional in October 2015. He went 15-0 before fighting to a draw against fellow unbeaten German Thomas Piccirillo in August 2020. He captured his first regional title with a points victory against Billi Facundo Godoy in November 2021. He defended it twice before capturing the vacant IBF middleweight world title with a unanimous decision win against then-undefeated Brazilian Esquiva Falcao.
Gualtieri said, “Janibek is an outstanding boxer who has done it all as an amateur and a professional, just like Esquiva Falcao. Janibek is a southpaw, just like Esquiva Falcao. Janibek was the favorite, just like Falcao. In the end, Janibek, like Falcao, will lose because I have the better team and the will of a champion. Only that will decide who wins and who loses, just as it did against Falcao.”
Davis (9-0, 6 KOs), from Norfolk, Virginia, is making a rapid ascent up the lightweight rankings. After going 3-0 as a pro, he captured a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics. In November 2021, he signed a long-term promotional contract with Top Rank and has since scored six victories, including brutal knockouts against Esteban Sanchez and Omar Tienda. In April, he pummeled Anthony Yigit en route to a ninth-round TKO victory. He shut out former European champion Francesco Patera via 10-round unanimous decision in July.
Davis said, “I’m coming to Texas to beat up Nahir Albright. Simple as that. He’s not on my level, and after I put on a show, a message will be sent. The future of the lightweight division is here.”
Albright (16-2, 7 KOs) lost a majority decision in his pro debut in 2016. Undeterred, he won his next 14 fights and captured his first regional title with a decision win over Jeremy Hill in July 2021. He stopped Michael Dutchover in the sixth round of their showdown two months later before suffering a decision loss against Jamaine Ortiz in February 2022. Albright bounced back seven months later by handing Brazilian standout Estivan Falcao his first loss. He is coming off an upset majority decision win against U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas in July.
Albright said, “This is another step in the right direction. He’s another person in my way. I’m not worried about Keyshawn Davis. I just beat an Olympian in my last fight. I want to fight the best and prove I belong in the ring with the top guys.”
The ESPN+-streamed undercard will feature a host of up-and-coming talents:
U.S. Olympic Silver medalist Richard Torrez Jr. (6-0, 6 KOs) will make his third appearance of 2023 in a six-round heavyweight battle against Don Haynesworth (17-8-1, 15 KOs). Torrez hopes to notch his third first-round victory of the year after first-round stoppages over James Bryant in February and Willie Jake Jr. in August.
Junior welterweight standout Giovanni Marquez (6-0, 4 KOs), son of former world champion Raul Marquez, will put his unbeaten record on the line in a scheduled six-rounder. The Houston native is coming off a second-round TKO win against Nicky Vitone in August.
U.S. Olympic silver medalist Duke Ragan (8-0, 1 KO) will make his 2023 debut in an eight-round featherweight fight against Jose Perez (11-1-2, 5 KOs). Ragan, from Cincinnati, Ohio, turned away a stiff challenge from Puerto Rican veteran Luis Lebron last October at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
2016 Italian Olympian Guido Vianello (10-1-1, 9 KOs) will take on Florida veteran Curtis Harper (14-9, 9 KOs) in an eight-round heavyweight tilt. In his last fight, Vianello lost his '0' after a right hand from veteran Jonnie Rice caused a cut above his left eye, forcing the referee to end the bout in the seventh round. Vianello was ahead on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the stoppage.
Kelvin Davis (9-0, 6 KOs), the eldest of the fighting Davis Brothers from Norfolk, will see action in an eight-round junior welterweight clash. Davis returns after a fourth-round knockout win against Derrick Whitley Jr. in July.
Unbeaten lightweight prospect Alan “Kid Kansas” Garcia (9-0, 8 KOs) will face an opponent to be named in a six-rounder.