Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Zhanibek Alimkhanuly Puts The Middleweight Division On Notice

The story going into the WBO Middleweight world championship fight between undefeated champion Zhanibek Alimkhanuly and WBO number four Middleweight contender Steven Butler on May 13th in Stockton,CA was not so much about the fight itself, nor was it about the world championship that was on the line, it was more about whether either fighter would be able to make a statement.

A statement for a fighter in a division that by all accounts appears to be heading towards a period of transition as potentially being the division's next focal point or star attraction. While there was little more about this fight beyond an undefeated world champion in the early stages of his reign defending his title against a top contender, the search for the next star of the Middleweight division as longtime division cornerstone and future Hall of Famer Gennady Golovkin appears to be heading toward retirement, is something that will likely hang over any fight involving fighters at or near the top of the division for a period of time, at least until a fighter can emerge as having made a strong enough of an argument as being that star. 

While this observer did not necessarily expect that fighter to emerge from this fight, it is nevertheless interesting to see fighters vying for that position in the aftermath of an era that was largely dominated by one fighter. What would happen when Alimkhanuly and Butler met at the Stockton Arena can be described as both devastating and too quick.  After an uneventful round one where both fighters seemed to be feeling each other out, Alimkhanuly connected in round two with a short left uppercut followed by a left hook to the head that staggered Butler. The subsequent barrage of punches by the champion put the challenger on the canvas.

Although Butler was able to get to his feet, he appeared in no condition to continue. Despite this, Referee Jack Reiss gave Butler every opportunity he could to continue. It would be mere seconds before Alimkhanuly scored two additional knockdowns on a very "Game," but compromised Butler, which would force a stoppage in the second round. 

To put it simply, there is not much one could write or analyze about a fight that ended so suddenly. While Zhanibek Alimkhanuly's knockout of Steven Butler was sudden and brutal in how the champion executed it in a manner not unlike that of Gennady Golovkin in his prime, it is too early to anoint Alimkhanuly as the division's next star. With Golovkin seemingly on the way out and current WBC world champion Jermall Charlo having been inactive for more than two years, Alimkhanuly has at least succeded in showing that he is an active champion and while this performance does not anoint him as the next star in the Middleweight division, it should certainly put the rest of the division on notice. 

"And That's The Boxing Truth."

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