Janibek Alimkhanuly says he’s just getting started.
The 30-year-old middleweight titleholder is scheduled to make the second defense of his alphabet belt against heavy underdog Steven Butler on Saturday at Stockton Arena in Stockton, California (ESPN, ESPN+).
If he wins, he’ll then target the other two titleholders: Jermall Charlo and Erislandy Lara. (The fourth title is vacant.)
And he knows he would have to be at his best to beat such talented, experienced champions. That’s why he has put more emphasis on conditioning after what he thought was a so-so performance in his last fight, a unanimous decision over talented Denzel Bentley in November.
“I got a new conditioning coach because I understand that it will help me grow,” Alimkhanuly said during the final news conference before the fight. “If you keep doing the same things, then you will stay in the same place. I wanted to grow. I wanted to unify. I wanted to fight Jermall Charlo. I wanted to fight Erislandy Lara.
“In order to do that, I knew that I had to make changes.”
That could be bad news for Butler (32-3-1, 26 KOs), a 27-year-old Canadian who was stopped by Ryota Murata in five rounds in his only big fight.
He lost by knockout to obscure Jose de Jesus Macias in his next fight but has won his last four, giving him some momentum going into his meeting with Alimkhanuly(13-0, 8 KOs) . Still, the Kazakhstani fighter is about a 20-1 favorite.
“I’m 100 percent ready,” Butler said. “I have a lot of respect for Janibek for giving me the opportunity, but he’ll be making a big mistake if he tries to think past me. I want to knock him out. I want the belt. That’s it. …
“I’ve learned a lot. I started boxing when I was 11 years old. I’m 27 now. So, I have a lot experience behind me. When I put it all together on Saturday night, I’m going to shock the world.”
Alimkhanuly admires Butler’s confidence but suggested the challenger is the one who will be shocked.
“As a fighter, I really respect him because he says what he thinks,” the former amateur world champion said. “But I’m going to show him that not only will he not be able to knock me out, he won’t even be able to touch me.”
Then it will be bigger and better things for Alimkhanuly.
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