The middleweight division’s supposed boogeyman survived somewhat of a scare Saturday night in Las Vegas.

Janibek Alimkhanuly was listed by most sportsbooks as a 20-1 favorite over British underdog Denzel Bentley, but Bentley withstood Alimkhanuly’s power early and made their 12-round middleweight title fight very competitive over the final eight rounds at Palms Casino Resort’s Pearl Concert Theater in Las Vegas. Kazakhstan’s Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KOs) still won a unanimous decision, as judges Tim Cheatham (116-112), Dave Moretti (116-112) and Steve Weisfeld (118-110) all favored the WBO 160-pound champion’s work.

“[Bentley] came prepared in the ring,” Alimkhanuly told ESPN’s Mark Kriegel, according to his translator. “I respect my opponent. He was prepared. He was 100 percent, but I’m a champion fighter and he was fighting. We fought all 12 rounds like champions.”

Although Bentley (17-2-1 and 14 KOs), started slow, the underestimated challenger gained confidence. He began landing right hands in round five, which made their fight much more interesting that most people expected. Bentley became braver once the challenger realized he could take Alimkhanuly’s power and started to let his hands go.

“The plan was to see what he has in the first couple rounds,” Bentley said. “See what I can take, take a couple shots on the gloves. Don’t rush into your work because he’s waiting for me to rush in to counter me. And then pick up the pace in the, you know, middle to late rounds, and I think that’s what I done.”

CompuBox logged 29 more connections for Alimkhanuly overall, who unofficially landed an additional 187-of-535 punches to 159–of-615 for Bentley. CompuBox says Alimkhanuly had more power punches (137 of-289 to 125–of-435) and more jabs (40% to 44% for Bentley)

Kazakhstan’s Alimkhanuly, 29, made the first defense of the WBO middleweight title he won May 21 and went 12 rounds for the first time. Alimkhanuly knocked out another huge underdog from England, Danny Dignum (14-1-1, 8 KOs), in the second round to win the WBO’s interim championship at Resorts World Las Vegas.

After Demetrius Andrade (31-0 (19 KOs), decided to fight in super middleweight instead of defending his WBO middleweight title, Alimkhanuly was elevated by the WBO to interim champion.

London’s Bentley, 27, delivered the best performance of his five-year pro career even in defeat. Bentley, the WBO’s ninth-ranked contender, was a huge underdog in large part because he lost by third-round technical knockout to another British middleweight, undefeated Felix Cash (15-0, 10 KOs), in April 2021 at York Hall in London.

Alimkhanuly looked ahead on the scorecards into the 12th round when he injured his opponent.

Alimkhanuly’s left hand made Bentley take an awkward step 22 seconds into the 12th and final round. Alimkhanuly was determined to win the knockout but Bentley held him back and slowed his momentum.

Bentley was stunned by another straight left by Alimkhanuly 59 seconds into round 12. With just 30 seconds remaining in their fight, he hammered Bentley with a righthook and then a left elbow.

Bentley attacked Alimkhanuly’s right hand, but Alimkhanuly responded with a straight left at mid-round of the 11th round. Two more left hands by Alimkhanuly got Bentley’s attention with under 25 seconds remaining in the 11th round.

Alimkhanuly’s left stunned Bentley with 30 seconds to go in the 10th round.

Alimkhanuly connected by two left uppercuts right before the halfway mark of the 10th Round. Alimkhanuly hit Bentley with a left to his body at 1:05 in the 10th round.

Alimkhanuly was caught by Bentley’s left uppercut with just over 50 seconds left in the ninth round. During the ninth round, Bentley was active more than Alimkhanuly but kept the champion from landing many flush punches.

Alimkhanuly landed a straight left in response to Bentley’s flush right with just over 30 seconds to go in the eighth round. Bentley attacked Alimkhanuly with his right hand, which he snapped back about 45 seconds into round 8.

With just 1:20 remaining in the seventh round of the seventh round, Bentley pinned Alimkhanuly with his right hand. Alimkhanuly came back less than 10 seconds later, though, with a straight left that got Bentley’s attention.

Over the final minute, Bentley was the more aggressive and accurate fighter in what was a very successful sixth round for the challenger.

In the sixth round, Bentley landed his right hand at just over 2:25. Approximately 30 seconds later, Bentley landed a right to Alimkhanuly’s body.

Alimkhanuly’s left uppercut connected with under 25 seconds on the clock in the fifth round, but Bentley let his hands go in response and kept Alimkhanuly from capitalizing on that shot. Alimkhanuly was supported with a left uppercut by Bentley and a straight right from Bentley just under a minute into round 5.

With just under 1:20 remaining in the fourth round, Bentley landed a right-hand. Alimkhanuly struck Bentley with a straight right, and he was immediately off balance.

Bentley was turned around by Alimkhanuly with a short right hook just before the end of round 3.

Alimkhanuly’s left hand knocked Bentley backward and into the ropes a few seconds after the halfway point of the third round. Bentley was knocked off balance by Alimkhanuly’s left hand just 30 seconds into round 3.

Alimkhanuly made a right-left combo with just over 1 minutes remaining in the second rounds. With just over a minute left in the second round, Ruiz warned Alimkhanuly to take a low blow.

Alimkhanuly’s straight left caught Bentley with just over a minute to go in the first round. Bentley was then stung by another left from Alimkhanuly 15 seconds later.

Alimkhanuly landed a right hook to the side of Bentley’s head with just under 1:50 on the clock in the opening round.

Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist at You can reach him on Twitter @Idecboxing.

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