The Stockton Arena in California is the setting for a world title doubleheader this Saturday evening, and in the main event Janibek Alimkhanuly defends his WBO middleweight gold against Steven Butler.
Top Rank promote, and Sky Sports televise Janibek vs Butler live in the UK, with ESPN showing the card in the USA.
Janibek (13-0, 8 KOs) is fast turning into a force at middleweight, having grown into world champion status.
The Kazakh southpaw came in to wider prominence in June 2021, forcing Rob Brant to retire after eight rounds, and he then stopped Hassan N’Dam N’Jikam in eight five months later.
The 30-year-old then secured up interim WBO belt by starching Danny Dignum inside two rounds in May last year, and after being upgraded to full champion, he was given a good test in his first defence by Britain’s Denzel Bentley before taking a clear points win in November.
Montreal-based Butler (32-3-1, 26 KOs) has been stopped in each of his defeats, and has previously challenged for the WBA strap in December 2019, stopped in five by Ryota Murata.
The 27-year-old is unbeaten in his his last four, his last win coming in December 2022, claiming a ten round decision win Joshua Conley.
Prediction: This looks to be a good showcase for Janibek, and I expect him to do the job inside schedule, possibly in the first half of the contest.
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Moloney meets Astrolabio
The second world title clash comes at bantamweight, where the vacant WBO strap is on offer between Jason Moloney and Vincent Astrolabio after Naoya Inoue vacated all four belts after becoming undisputed champion in December.
Australia’s Moloney (25-2, 19 KOs) will hope its third time lucky, having lost to Emmanuel Rodriguez via split decision for the IBF title in 2018, and then knocked out in seven by the superb Inoue in a bid for the IBF and WBA ‘super’ belts in October 2020.
‘Mayhem’ has won four on the spin since, and in decent company, with his last a wide points success against Nawaphon Kaikanha in October 2022.
Astrolabio (18-3, 13 KOs) holds a ten round win over former two-weight world champion, Guillermo Rigondeaux in February last year, and the Filipino was last out in December 2022, knocking out Nikolai Potapov in six.
Prediction: I think Moloney has the better seasoning, and if he can avoid an early onslaught, he can take a clear points win to become world champion at the third time of asking.
Javier Martinez (8-0, 2 KOs) steps up to eight round action for the first time, and he can outscore fellow unbeaten American, Joeshon James (7-0, 4 KOs) at middleweight.
Super featherweight prospect, Haven Brady Jr (9-0, 4 KOs) can also take a points win over eight against D’Angelo Fuentes (8-1, 5 KOs).
In the remaining eight rounders, Gabriel Flores Jr (21-2, 7 KOs) can halt Derrick Murray (17-8-1, 6 KOs) in their lightweight encounter while at welterweight, Brian Norman Jr (23-0, 19 KOs) may need the cards to see off Jesus Antonio Perez Campos (24-4, 18 KOs).
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At featherweight, former world title challenger, Ruben Villa (19-1, 6 KOs) can bank a points win against Maickol Lopez Villagrana (16-4, 8 KOs).
The sole six rounder is also at featherweight, where Amado Vargas (6-0, 2 KOs) should stop Bernardo Manzano (2-4).