Kazakhstan - Kanat Islam is looking for a world title shot, and - after being sidelined for various reasons and left outside looking in by light middleweights - he is is planning a run in the middleweight division.

At 35, time is ticking rapidly for him but as revealed by tonight's fight against Namibian Walter Kautodonkwa his world title shot can be a long shot. The proof of that in a slightly controversial decision win against former world title challenger was a stark reminder of that.

Islam, previously a legit and high-rated light middleweight contender, was starting to make waves at 154lbs but missed 22 months for various reasons, finally coming back as a middleweight in the first-round blowout of 27-1 Dominican Julio de Jesus. The win over a blown-up former light welterweight proved little - it was de Jesus' first trip outside of the Dominican Republic, and he has never won against someone with legitimate credentials. Kautodonkwa was different. He was just one fight removed from a spirited, albeit a pitiful effort in the WBO title fight against Demitrius Andrade. The WBO #9 Namibian, a late sub for Billy Joe Saunders, went down several times but managed to last till the final bell. He also boasted a solid kayo record (17 KOs in 18 wins) coming into a cross-roader versus WBO #8 Oxnard-based ethnic Kazakh from China.

Islam, a stockier of the two, started fast, using his awkward technique and solid shots to keep Kautodonkwa honest. The Namibian struggled to find both his rhythm and distance, being hit over in the first couple of rounds. From round three. however, he has adjusted partially to an unusual style of Islam and began to fight back. It's when the ethnic Kazakhstani possibly realized the difference in punching power (at least between Kautodonkwa and his previous opponent). Islam chose to cope with it by flashy moves and even occasional running when needed. Kautodonkwa hardly landed anything of note during rounds three and four, but Islam showed some early signs of fatigue nevertheless.

Kautodonkwa, 34, began the fifth pretty good, but it turned to be by far Islam's best round, when he dropped the Namibian with an overhand left hook to the chin. Clearly wobbled, the Namibian did well in a survival and even fought back. Meanwhile, Islam punched himself out in a degree and looked gassed by the end of these three minutes.

Now it has been turning into a war of attrition, which got worse for the local, as rounds went by, and Walter caught his second wind. From round seven or eight it looked like Islam has almost nothing left in terms of energy and stamina. He wasn't clearly rocked by any punches of the Namibian kayo artist, showing a great chin, but he threw very little in return, relying more on his lateral movement and occasional jumps in with powerful left hooks which lacked precision. Kautodonkwa, rightfully sensing he needed something big to overturn the coming verdict, was a clear stalker but he lacked fitness and speed to deal with Islam's awkwardness.

Both combatants rumbled occasionally with neither getting an edge (Islam landed less but with greater precision), but it was the Namibian, who was coming strong after a mid-point. His effort wasn't supported by the judges who awarded it to the Kazakh fighter (scores were announced in Islam's native language). BoxingScene had it 95-94 - for the Namibian. The official judges had it 97-92 (twice) and 99-92 for Islam.

Islam is now 27-0, 21 KOs, defending his WBO International middleweight title for the first time, while Kautodonkwa drops down to 18-2, 17 KOs.

However, prospects of Islam challenging reigning champion Demetrius Andrade and pushing him to the limit by doing so, remains unclear. What is clear is that Kanat Islam and his team has some solid homework to do.