Janibek Alimkhanuly retained his WBO middleweight title on Saturday at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, beating Denzel Bentley in a tougher fight than most expected.
Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KOs) was widely expected to win by knockout. Instead, Bentley went all 12 rounds.
The judges scored the fight 116-112, 116-112, and 118-110. LegendzTV had it 116-112 for Alimkhanily. You could say that the middleweight division's supposed boogeyman looked particularly vulnerable.
Bentley (17-2-1, 14 KOs) got off to a slow start, but the Englishman began landing right hands in the fifth round as it appeared the champion was running low on steam. He immediately found a home for his counter right hand and landed his uppercut with regularity for the rest of the bout.
Bentley outworked Alimkhanuly for the next three rounds, which led to his corner, led by Hall-of-Fame trainer Buddy McGirt, to push their man to box with an increased sense of urgency.
Alimkhanuly dug deep down the stretch and connected with one-two combinations and straight left. He closed the show in the 12th round with some eye-catching shots that stunned Bentley, who bravely stood his ground until the final bell.
The 29-year-old Alimkhanuly, of Kazakhstan, made the first defense of the WBO middleweight title he won May 21 and went 12 rounds for the first time in his pro career. In that fight, Alimkhanuly knocked out Danny Dignum (14-1-1, 8 KOs) in the second round to win the WBO’s interim championship before he was elevated to full champion.
But this was no walk in the park for Alimkhanuly.
“It’s boxing. Anything can happen in the ring. He came prepared. I respect my opponent because he was really prepared. He was 100 percent,” Janibek said through manager Egis Klimas' translation. “I am a champion, and I fought all 12 rounds as a champion.”
“I’m ready for any champion, for unification,” he added. “I’m ready to fight anybody. Let’s fight.”