Janibek Alimkhanuly celebrates after stopping Danny Dignum for the WBO interim middleweight title at Resorts World Las Vegas on May 21, 2022 in Las Vegas. Photo by Mikey Williams/Top Rank Inc via Getty Images
Top Rank announced a world title double-header featuring WBO middleweight titlist Janibek Alimkhanuly making the second defense of his title against former title challenger Steven Butler, while Jason Moloney and Vincent Astrolabio collide for the vacant WBO bantamweight world title. The promotion will take place at the Stockton Arena, Stockton, California on May 13.
The undercard will see popular local fighter Gabriel Flores Jr. (21-2, 7 KOs) return to action, as well as rising middleweight Javier Martinez (8-0, 2 KOs), talented welterweight Brian Norman Jr. (23-0, 19 KOs), and junior lightweight prospect Haven Brady Jr. (9-0, 4 KOs).
Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 knockouts), The Ring’s No. 3-rated middleweight, won gold at the 2013 World Amateur Championships before representing Kazakhstan at the 2016 Olympics, where he lost at the quarter-final stage. As a professional, he moved quickly and scored impressive wins over Rob Brant (RTD 8) and Hassan N’dam (TKO 8).
He looked sensational taking apart Danny Dignum (KO 2) to win the vacant WBO interim title. When Demetrius Andrade stepped up to super middleweight, Alimkhanuly was upgraded to full champion. He has since made one defense, looking less impressive beating Denzel Bentley (UD 12).
Butler (32-3-1, 26 KOs) turned professional in 2014. The Canadian power-puncher won 18 of his first 19 fights, the lone blemish was a draw before he came unstuck against Brandon Cook (TKO 7). he rebounded with 10 consecutive wins, notably stopping Jaime Herrera (TKO 10), who he’d previously drawn with and long-time contender Carson Jones (TKO 7).
Butler lost when he travelled to Japan and challenged the WBA’s secondary titleholder Ryota Murata (TKO 5) and suffered a hangover into his next fight when he was upset by Jose de Jesus Macias (TKO 5), but he doubled down on his commitment and enjoyed a strong 2022 reeling off four consecutive wins, claiming the NABF title, notably beating Brandon Brewer (UD 10) and Mark De Luca (TKO 2).
Moloney (25-2, 19 KOs), The Ring’s No. 2-rated bantamweight, comfortably climbed the rankings and stopped former titleholder Kohei Kono (TKO 6) in 2018. The 32-year-old then took part in the WBSS, and although he lost to IBF titlist Emmanuel Rodriguez (SD 12), the Australian boxer-puncher showed more than enough to suggest that he belongs.
He rebounded with four wins to earn a shot at the unified Ring, IBF and WBA champion Naoya Inoue. It proved a bridge too far and he was stopped in seven rounds. He has returned to the win column with four wins.
Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs), The Ring’s No. 4-rated bantamweight, largely fought at home and was unbeaten through 10 fights before losing three out of five fight fights.
He found some form to win four fights, against middling opponents, before his big break came against Guillermo Rigondeaux. The 26-year-old dropped the ageing Cuban in the eighth and went on to pick up a 10-round unanimous decision. He has since kept the momentum going by stopping Nikolai Potapov (KO 6).
Alimkhanuly-Butler and Moloney-Astrolabio will be broadcast live on ESPN at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT.
Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] and you can follow him on