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Boxing Preview: Janikbek Alimkhanuly (13-0-0, 8 KOs) vs Steven Butler (32-3-1, 26 KOs)

Undefeated Kazak phenom Janikbek “Qazaq Style” Alimkhanuly will defend his WBO middleweight world title in the main event against Canadian contender Steven Butler on Saturday, May 13, at Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.

In the co-feature, former two-time world title challenger Jason “Mayhem” Moloney will face big-punching Filipino contender Vincent Astrolabio for the vacant WBO bantamweight title.

Date: Saturday, May 13
Start time: 9 p.m. ET / 2 a.m. BST
Main event ringwalks (approx): 12 a.m. ET / 5 a.m. BST
Viewers in the U.S. can watch the fight live on ESPN+
The fight will take place at the Stockton Arena in Stockton, California.
The main card is set to get underway at 9 p.m. ET / 2 a.m. BST with the main event ringwalks scheduled for 12 a.m. ET / 5 a.m. BST. These timings could change due to the length of the undercard fights.

Featured on the ESPN+-streamed undercard is the return of “Stockton’s King,” Gabriel Flores Jr. (21-2, 7 KOs). The 22-year-old will fight in an eight-round lightweight bout and hopes to rebound from last July’s loss to Giovanni Cabrera.

“We are excited to bring two world championship fights to the wonderful fight city of Stockton,” said Top Rank Chairman Bob Arum. “Janibek is the most avoided middleweight in the world, but Steven Butler did not hesitate to take on the challenge. Jason Moloney has been close to a world title before, but he’ll need to be at his best to defeat a determined Filipino in Vincent Astrolabio.”

“I’m very proud of the character Steven has shown to work his way back to the top,” said Camille Estephan, President of Eye of the Tiger. “We are not going to miss our chance. We’re going to cause a surprise on May 13.”

Janibek (13-0, 8 KOs), a native of Zhilandy, Kazakhstan, took the fast track to title contention after representing his country in the 2016 Olympics. He captured his first pair of regional titles in 2019 by defeating Cristian Olivas. In 2021, Janibek stopped former world champions Hassan N’Dam and Rob Brant. The following year, the 29-year-old blasted out Danny Dignum in two rounds to capture the interim WBO middleweight title, earning a shot at then-champion Demetrius Andrade. Janibek was elevated to world champion after Andrade elected to move up in weight rather than defend his title. The southpaw defended his title against Denzel Bentley via a 12-round decision last November.

“All of the middleweights have run scared, so I give Steven Butler a lot of credit for accepting the fight,” Janibek said. “I want to unify the division, but I cannot overlook Butler. He is a tough, powerful challenger, and I look forward to giving a tremendous show to the fans in Stockton and those watching on ESPN.”

Butler (32-3-1, 26 KOs) is a nine-year pro from Montreal, Canada. He captured the IBF North American belt via first-round knockout against Janks Trotter in 2016 before suffering his first defeat against then-undefeated Brandon Cook the following year. Butler bounced back with eight knockout victories before decisioning Vitalii Kopylenko to capture the WBC International middleweight title. The 27-year-old then traveled to Japan to challenge Ryota Murata for the WBA title in a valiant but unsuccessful effort. Butler is now coming off four wins, two of them by knockout.

Butler said, “No detail will be spared in this training camp. Expect a big upset on May 13. I am confident that I will bring the belt back to Quebec.”

Moloney (25-2, 19 KOs) began his career in the paid ranks as a junior featherweight before moving down to 118 pounds in 2017. As a bantamweight, he scored three knockout wins in a row before losing to Emmanuel Rodriguez via split decision in his first world title opportunity. He then stopped four opponents in a row before challenging pound-for-pound king Naoya Inoue for the unified bantamweight championship. Moloney is coming off four consecutive wins, including a third-round knockout over Filipino contender Aston Palicte. “On May 13 I will become champion of the world. Nineteen years of hard work, countless sacrifices, and complete dedication to the sport all come down to this moment,” Moloney said. “Whatever it takes to have this world championship wrapped around my waist, nothing will stop me. I want to say a big thank you to Top Rank and my team for giving me this opportunity.”

Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs) is a 25-year-old native of the Philippines who burst onto the scene last year with a 10-round unanimous decision against former unified world champion Guillermo Rigondeaux. Last November, he dropped Nikolai Potapov three times before stopping him in the sixth round to earn a crack at his first world title.

“Ever since I started boxing my dream was to fight for a world title, and dreams do come true with hard work,” Astrolabio said. “I have played this moment over and over in my head, and I will not be denied the world title. I want to thank my promoter, Manny Pacquiao, and Sean Gibbons for getting me this WBO bantamweight world title shot.”

In undercard action: In an eight-round middleweight bout, former U.S. amateur star Javier Martinez (8-0, 2 KOs) makes his 2023 debut. Martinez dominated the durable Marco Delgado last November in a career-best performance.

Atlanta-based welterweight standout Brian Norman Jr. (23-0, 19 KOs) comes back in an eight-rounder. Norman made his Top Rank debut in January with an eight-round decision over Rodrigo Damian Coria. Junior lightweight prospect Haven Brady Jr. (9-0, 4 KOs) makes his second appearance of 2023 in an eight-rounder. Brady turned back the gritty challenge of Ruben Cervera in January to improve to 9-0.

Zhanibek Alimkhanuly vs. Steven Butler; For Alimkhanuly’s WBO middleweight title
Jason Moloney vs. Vincent Astrolabio; For the vacant WBO bantamweight title
Robson Conceicao vs. Nicolas Polanco; Super-featherweight
Javier Martinez vs. Joeshon James; Middleweight
Haven Brady Jr vs. D’Angelo Fuentes; Super-featherweight
Gabriel Flores Jr vs. Derrick Murray; Lightweight
Brian Norman Jr vs. Jesus Campos; Welterweight

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