This Saturday night from Rosenberg, Texas (which is on the outskirts of Houston) a middleweight unification bout between Janibek Alimkhanuly (WBO) and Vincenzo Gualtieri (IBF) takes place on the latest Top Rank card.
This isn't exactly Bernard Hopkins-Felix Trinidad.
Alimkhanuly is just nominally known by casual boxing fans even with the past exposure he's been given on ESPN. While the late, great Bert Sugar would've said of Gualtieri that he isn't even a household name in his own household.
Yeah, I'm fond of saying that 'belts matter' (and they very much do), but who holds these titles also matters.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
While there is certainly an important bout for both combatants, the blunt truth is that this is among the most nondescript unification bouts in history. And in many respects symbolizes the malaise that is currently taking place in the middleweight division.
As you peruse the Ring Magazine ratings at 160 (where their championship is vacant), you see that Golovkin -- who hasn't performed in over a year -- is number one. Followed by Alimkhanuly, Carlos Adames, Erislandy Lara, Sergiy Derevyanchenko, Chris Eubank Jr, Meiirim Nursultanov, Elijah Garcia, Felix Cash and Liam Smith.
There's no doubt that with fighters heading into retirement (GGG), moving up in weight (Canelo), or just not fighting (Jermall Charlo), you see that the division in currently in a depressed state of affairs.
It's interesting to note that Gualtieri is not in the Ring top 10 despite having the IBF belt around his waist. I didn't check, but he has to be among the very few -- if only -- major world champion to not be rated by them.
The 30-year old Gualtieri (21-0-1, 7 KOs), who hails from Germany, captured the vacant IBF strap back in July as he scored a 12-round decision over Esquiva "Rock Me Amadeus' Falcao.
In viewing this contest, you saw a fighter who switch-hits, and will put his hands down by his side and is pretty slippery. You could say that he is awkwardly effective, but certainly not a classic stylist. Gualtieri tends to slap a bit with his punches but he did send Falcao to the canvas twice.
No, he's not horrible, but he's certainly not great. So he's somewhere between Morrade Hakkar and Marvin Hagler.
As for Alimkhanuly(14-0, 9 KOs), he's a solid if not spectacular fighter, who believes that he's destined for big things like his Kazak compartiot. But it should be pointed out that Golovkin, as he burst onto the American scene in 2012, was put on a plan by Tom Loeffler to keep him as active as possible, and in the consciousness of the fight fans.
Mikey Williams/Top Rank
Unfortunately for 'Qazak Style', since 2021, he has perfomed just twice a year on various Top Rank/ESPN cards, as he has dutifully taken care of the likes of Rob Brant, Hassan N'dam, Danny Dignum, Denzel Bentley, and most recently Steven Butler.
To be fair, the likes of Jaime Munguia (whos handlers have turned away more than one title fight) declined to face him. And Demetrius Andrade decided to vacate the WBO 160-pound title, rather than face Alimkhanuly. (So does that make him the boogeyman to the boogeyman?)
Alimkhanuly should win this fight. What it will mean for him in the big picture is still unclear. Regardless, he could come out of this weekend as a unified champion.
But the question is: just how many people will care?
Showtime will have coverage from Australia of Tim Tszyu-Brian Mendoza on Saturday night. Will this be the networks last boxing (non-PPV) broadcast?....According to a press release sent out by Top Rank, Brian Viloria is now training Alimkhanuly, in place of Buddy McGirt....The co-main on this ESPN broadcast (10:30 pm, ET/7:30 pm, PT) is a 10 round lightweight contest between Keyshawn Davis and Nahir Albright.....It was announced that on Nov. 15, ESPN+ will provide live coverage of the doubleheader featuring Takuma Inoue-Jerwin Ancajas and Artem Dalakian-Seigo Yuri Akui.....Can Miami rebound from that gut wrenching loss last week versus North Carolina?....Oregon-Washington is the college football game of this weekend....