The anticipated showcase fight for WBO World Middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly of Kazakhstan (13-0, 8 KOs) didn't materialize against Denzel Bentley of London, England (17-2-1, 14 KOs). Instead, fans got a far more entertaining fight thanks to a determined challenge by the little-regarded Bentley.
After 12 hard rounds, the pair heard the final bell and awaited the cards after a competitive scrap. As the scorecards were announced 116-112 X 2 and 118-110 (by Steve Weisfeld) for Alimkhanuly, boos and grumbling were heard among the fans at The Palms in Las Vegas.
“It's boxing. Anything can happen in the ring,” said Alimkhanuly. “I came prepared. I respect my opponent, who was really prepared, 100%. I'm a champion. I fought all 12 rounds as a champion.” Alimkhanuly, who went 12 rounds for the first time as a professional, said he and his team would watch the fight again later and learn what he has to work on.
Trainer Buddy McGirt implored Alimkhanuly throughout the fight to step on the gas, and told him before the 12th round he needed to finish big to win. It didn't turn out to be accurate, but he followed his trainer's advice. “Listen, he's world champion; he's still the best middleweight,” said McGirt. “I told Janibek before the fight (Bentley) had everything to gain and nothing to lose. One hundred percent respect for him and his team. After five straight knockouts, you think you're going to knock everyone out. (Janibek) did what he had to do to retain his title.”
Bentley was disappointed but heartened by how Las Vegas fans embraced his effort. “The plan was to see what he has in the first couple rounds, see what I could take, and pick it up in the middle to late rounds. That was the plan all along. I can't say I'm disappointed. I put on a great fight against a world champion tonight. It was a good fight. It was entertaining, the crowd loved it.”
Bentley said he would not be deterred in his quest to be a world champion. “I didn't shock myself, but I let myself down. I want to be a world champion. I'll be happy if you lot would have me again.”
Bentley Impresses, Will Be Welcomed Back
Bentley was far more competitive than expected. He held his ground against his opponent with a fearsome reputation. Bentley began gaining confidence and believing in himself as his right hand found the target. He started taking the initiative and coming forward, winning rounds. Trainer Buddy McGirt showed concern and urged Alimkhanuly to press on.
Alimkhanuly began looking for one big punch, and it was a mistake. McGirt implored Alimkhanuly to focus on backing Bentley up and working on hooks inside. Alimkhanuly took his trainer's words to heart, blasting Bently with straight lefts to slow his opponent down.
“Three minutes! You need this round!” begged McGirt before the final round. Bentley's corner pressed for a knockout, saying he wouldn't get a decision on the cards – and they were right. Alimkhanuly delivered when he needed to, rocking Bentley, who stood tough. Neither had gone 12 rounds before. Bentley got the moral victory making it across the finish line to hear the final bell.
With the middleweight division in transition as Jermall Charlo considers moving to super middleweight and Gennadiy Golovkin aging out, both Alimkhanuly and Bentley have ambitions of cracking the top ten. Saturday's bout provided plenty of lessons learned that will help them down the road.
Seniesa Estrada Stakes Her Claim in Top Rank Debut
Two-division world champion Seniesa “Superbad” Estrada (23-0, 9 KOs) reintroduced herself after 11 months out of the ring with a definitive WBO World Minimumweight title defense against Jazmin Gala Villarino of Buenos Aires (6-2-2, 1 KOs). Scorecards read the same, a 100-90 shutout for Estrada.
“This is what I was born to do, this is the talent God has given me. This is my destiny. I'm just happy to be back,” said Estrada.
Estrada landed 51% of her power punches. “That's how we train,” said Estrada, adding she sparred 120 rounds ad her team critiques every round, and consistency is the key.
“I'm the best opponent she's faced. She wanted to defeat me. I was prepared to go ten rounds. I won all ten rounds. I'm ready to go for unification fights and undisputed,” said Estrada.
No ring rust was seen as Estrada and Villarino mixed it up for ten hard rounds without holding back. Villarino was a game dance partner, unafraid to come forward and take a shot to deliver one. The pair poured it on in the championship rounds to the delight of their fans in the crowd and an enthusiastic commentator Tim Bradley Jr. who loves him a high-level action fight, having been in a few himself.
Estrada said it had been an emotional week after staying out of the ring for 328 days to pursue a new promotional agreement just as women's boxing was on the rise.
“It was very frustrating to stay out of the ring. Not only did I do it for myself, but for the future of women's boxing. All young girls coming up and all women in the sport, Me, Claressa (Shields), Mikaela (Mayer), Amanda (Serrano), all women in the sport. I'm trying to fight for the younger generation, not only myself.
“I want to tell all girls, all women in sports, to always believe in yourself, always believe in what you can do, and always go for what you want.” Estrada had already established a big fan base in Southern California with her relentless power punching and ring generalship. The East L.A. fighter can build on this with her fan-friendly skills and appealing personality.
Raymond Muratalla Pushed But Prevails
Lightweight Raymond Muratalla of Fontana, California (16-0, 13 KOs) had no trouble shutting down Miguel Contreras of Bakersfield, California (12-3-1, 6 KOs). Contreras put up a game effort with no quit in him. Muratalla patiently worked his power shots to test his skills. Eventually, the accumulated onslaught forced referee Miguel Contreras to step in and stop the fight at 2:23 in the sixth round when Muratalla caught Contreras with a vicious series, including a lead uppercut and hooks. Contreras' swollen right eye and cut face showed his inability to fend Muratalla off.
“He's a tough guy, my hat's off to him,” said Muratalla. “I think I'm ready for the top guys,” said Muratalla, naming Jeremiaa Nakathila of Namibia, followed by undisputed division champion Devin Haney.
Undeniable DNA: Vargas Ices Martinez, Fires Up Crowd
Lightweight prospect Emiliano “El General” Vargas of Las Vegas announced his intentions to follow his father Fernando's legacy with a sizzling second-round knockout of Julio Cesar Martinez of South Bend, Indiana.
ONE PUNCH. OUT COLD.
— Top Rank Boxing (@trboxing) November 13, 2022
Vargas, age 18, is the youngest of three sons pursuing professional boxing to become world champions as “Feroz” did. Of the three, Emiliano is the one boxing insiders have their eye on. He's already got a fan following, which will grow after Saturday's highlight reel KO.
“Emiliano reminds me so much of my dedication as a kid,” said his father, who initially discouraged him from boxing, but finally gave in at his son's insistence.
“The legacy continues. That's it,” said the younger Vargas. “I want to stay busy. I want to stay in the ring. I'm only 18. I've got a lot of growing to do. 135 or 140, I'm coming. I'll see you in couple years.”
Undercard Results: Diaz, Sheehy, Balderas, Mirales Get Stoppage Wins
Floyd “Cash Flow” Diaz doesn't lack confidence. The flashy junior featherweight Diaz (8-0, 3 KOs) thrilled the hometown Las Vegas crowd with a fourth-round TKO over Edgar Joel Cortes of Vineland, New Jersey. Diaz had “Coming For Inoue” stenciled on the front of his trunks and “I Want Fulton” on the back. Diaz might be starting a trend.
Charlie Sheehy of Brisbane, California (5-0, 4 KOs) made quick work of Markus Bowes of Roxboro, North Carolina (2-1, 2 KOs), scoring a fourth-round stoppage in their lightweight contest.
Karlos Balderas of Santa Maria, California (14-1, 12 KOs) dropped Esteban Sanchez of Tijuana (18-3, 8 KOs) in the first round with a combination ending in a right hook. Sanchez carried on, and in the following seven rounds, it was the snapping straight left jab of Balderas battering Sanchez down to force a stoppage by referee Raul Caiz Jr. at 1:02 of the eighth and final round.
Heavyweight prospect Antonio Mirales of Des Moines, Iowa (6-0, 6 KOs) took less time to knockout Eric Perry of Toccoa, Georgia (5-1-1, 5 KOS) than it just took you to read this sentence, giving Perry his first loss.
Middleweight Javier Martinez of Milwaukee (8-0, 2 KOs) had to go the six-round distance for his victory over Marco Antonio Delgado of Turlock, California (7-5, 5 KOs). Scores were 60-54 and 59-55 X 2.