Janibek Alimkhanuly was all business throughout fight week and ever the professional at the scale.
A well-distributed and career light 159.2 pounds graced the frame of Kazakhstan’s Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8KOs), who attempts the second defense of his WBO middleweight title. He faces Montreal’s Steven Butler (32-3-1, 26KOs) who was 159.6 pounds for their scheduled 12-round bout which airs live this Saturday on ESPN (10:00 p.m. ET/7:00 p.m. PT) from Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.
Alimkhanuly has enjoyed a tight weight range of 159.2 160 pounds since his sixth pro bout more than four years ago. The 30-year-old southpaw made a point to bring on a new strength and conditioning coach for this bout, following a twelve-round, unanimous decision win over England’s Denzel Bentley last November 12 in Las Vegas.
This weekend will mark the first fight outside of Las Vegas since the pandemic for Alimkhanuly, who is based out of Oxnard, California and who has fought five straight times in Sin City.
Butler has only fought three times outside of Canada. Two have resulted in defeat—back-to-back fifth-round knockouts to then-WBA middleweight titlist Ryota Murata in Japan and to journeyman Jose de Jesus Macias in Mexico. Four straight wins have followed for Butler, whose only other U.S. appearance came in a May 2019 win over Vitalii Kopylenko in Las Vegas.
The co-feature pits Australia’s Jason Moloney (25-2, 19KOs) and Philippines’ Vincent Astrolabio (18-3, 13KOs) for the vacant WBO bantamweight title.
Moloney was 117.8 ahead of his third bid for a major title. Astrolabio was a fit and trim 117.2 pounds in his first career fight with one of the four main sanctioning bodies’ belt at stake. Their scheduled 12-round bout opens the ESPN title fight doubleheader.
Preliminary Undercard, ESPN+, 6:45 p.m. ET/3:45 p.m. PT
Gabriel Flores Jr. (21-2, 7KOs), Las Vegas, Nevada via Stockton, California, 134.4 pounds vs. Derrick Murray (17-8-1, 6KOs), St. Louis, Missouri, 134.4 pounds—8 rounds, lightweight
Ruben Villa (19-1, 6KOs), Salinas, California, 126.4 pounds vs. Maickol Lopez (16-4, 8KOs), Miami, Florida via Mexico City, 126.6 pounds—8 rounds, featherweight
Javier Martinez (8-0, 2KOs), Milwaukee, 161.2 pounds vs. Joeshon James (7-0, 4KOs), Sacramento, California, 161.2 pounds—8 rounds, middleweight
Amado Fernando Vargas (6-0, 2KOs), North Las Vegas via Oxnard, California, 129.4 pounds vs. Bernardo Manzano (2-4, 0KOs), Tlalnepantla, Mexico, 129.6* pounds—4 rounds, junior lightweight
* Manzano was 130.6 on first try, made 130-pound contracted limit within CSAC-permitted one-hour period
Brian Norman Jr. (23-0, 19KOs), Conyers, Georgia, 148 pounds vs. Jesus Antonio Perez (24-4, 18KOs), Tijuana, 147 pounds—8 rounds, welterweight
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox