The middleweight division is in flux. One of the most glamorous divisions in all of boxing which has had some of the most iconic names in the sport such as Marvin Hagler, Bernard Hopkins, Gennadiy Golovkin, James Toney, and more, now is looking for the next star of the division or at the least someone to carry the torch. Many believe that WBO middleweight world champion, Janibek Alimkhanuly, could be that guy, but his first world title defense against Denzel Bentley had many more questions than answers.
Enter Steven Butler, the man who is traveling from Canada to fight for the second world title of his career, and vows that sparring with Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto has changed him as a fighter. Butler will face Alimkhanuly at the Stockton Arena, in Stockton, California, on Saturday, May 13th, as the main event of a Top Rank Inc card that will be televised on ESPN+. It is this sparring that inspired Butler to go to the next level of his career, and what he feels will make him a championship boxer along with the humility and fear of aging as well.
Butler knows a thing or two about being doubted. In 2019, Butler was knocked out by two-time middleweight world champion and Olympic gold medalist Ryota Murata in five rounds. His first bout back in January of 2021 saw Butler stopped by an unheralded fighter as well. Since then the self-proclaimed ‘Arturo Gatti of the middleweight division’ has won four fights straight. Butler is not viewing Janibek’s fight against Bentley as a sign of things to come from the prizefighter, probably because he has lived through that doubt and had to prove people wrong himself.
“His last fight is not his best performance,” stated Butler. “Everybody knows that, but I don't put my eyes or my mind on [Janibek’s fight with Denzel Bentley] because I know sometimes you have a bad day at the job and we have a good day at the job. So I'm going to be ready for his best [version of Janibek].”
Butler has had to transform over the past four years as not unlike a college education, Butler went from a bright-eyed naive puncher to a battle-tested veteran, who now is trying to reinvent himself after sparring with some of the best fighters in the world. Butler reflected on that process prior to his upcoming fight.
“I started my career at 18 years old knockout everybody and I am the Superman and I can now [beat] everybody, furthered the middleweight from Canada. “[Boxing is a] dangerous sport, and you need to have a good defense to handle this fight because when you find a guy like [Ryota] Murata…I [saw] the difference between Murata and a guy come from Mexico to come find me [in] Canada.
A lot of the talk around Janibek has been about how avoided he is in the sport of boxing. Janibek has a social media account that often makes light of this, ads will run calling him the boogeyman and a lot of that is true. He is a fighter with a deep amateur pedigree, a southpaw stance, and is capable of doing a lot of stuff in the ring. Now the reporters who are rational will look at the results to see where he stacks up in history and his era. Butler thinks highly of Janibek and believes that the current world champion is one of the best if not the best fighter in the division currently. It seems clear Janibek is the classic high-risk, low-reward fighter who often gets overlooked.
“I think [Janibek] is one of the best maybe the best one [at middleweight] because nobody wants to fight him,” explained Butler. “That's for a reason and it’s because he is dangerous. [He is a] very good boxer again, nothing bad to say about him. He's a great boxer and dangerous southpaw.”