Janibek Alimkhanuly survives spirted challenge from Denzel Bentley, wins decision

Janibek Alimkhanuly didn’t look like the future of the middleweight division but he got the job done Saturday night in Las Vegas.

The highly hyped WBO titleholder received a spirited challenge from heavy underdog Denzel Bentley but emerged with a unanimous-decision victory, his belt and his perfect record.

The official scores were 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112. Boxing Junkie also scored it 116-112 for the 29-year-old Kazakh, eight rounds to four.

Alimkhanuly (13-0, 9 KOs) got off to a strong start, outworking a skittish Bentley (17-2-1, 14 KOs) over the first four rounds. It seemed as if Alimkhanuly might be on his way to seventh consecutive knockout.

Bentley had different ideas. The Londoner picked up his pace in Round 5 and didn’t let up the rest of the way, which turned a one-sided fight into a competitive one.

The fighters played give-and-take from Round 5 through Round 10, with both landing eye-catching shots and neither getting seriously hurt in the process in spite of Alimkhanuly’s well-publicized punching power.

Then, in the final two rounds, the champion asserted himself to pull away from Bentley. He landed some of his hardest punches in those rounds, although the challenger remained on his feet.

In the end, Alimkhanuly survived the toughest test of his career and gained valuable experience, which will serve him going forward. However, he definitely didn’t scare the other top 160-pounders.

The WBO’s No. 1 challenger, Jaime Munguia, might be next for Alimkhanuly. The sanctioning body has ordered that fight.

Is the Kazakh ready for that challenge? That question can’t be answered based on his so-so performance Saturday night.

In preliminary bouts, WBA strawweight Seniesa Estrada of Los Angeles outworked Jazmin Gala Villarina (6-2-2, 1 KO) of Argentina to win a shutout 10-round decision. All three judges scored it 100-90.

Estrada (23-0, 9 KOs) hadn’t fought 11 months before Saturday.

Lightweight prospect Raymond Muratalla (16-0, 13 KOs) of Fontana, California, stopped Miguel Contreras (12-2-1, 6 KOs) of Bakersfield, California, at 2:23 of Round 6 of a scheduled eight-rounder.

And lightweight prospect Emiliano Vargas of Oxnard, California, stopped Julio Martinez (1-1, 1 KO) of South Bend, Indiana, with a single left hook 47 second into the second round of a scheduled four-round light.

Vargas (2-0, 2 KOs) is the 18-year-old son of former two-division titleholder Fernando Vargas.

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