Janibek Alimkhanuly and Vincenzo Gualtieri will attempt to provide much-needed leadership in the barren middleweight division.
The pair of unbeaten titlists began with their obligatory staredown immediately after they both made weight for their WBO and IBF unification bout this Saturday from Fort Bend Epicenter in Rosenberg, Texas. Kazakhstan’s Alimkhanuly was 159.3 pounds while Germany’s Gualtieri checked in at 159 ½ pounds for their ESPN-televised main event.
The two then met face-to-face and refused to turn away, even after being instructed by Top Rank staff to turn and face the cameras. Alimkhanuly offered an evil grin before he slowly ended the session, while Gualtieri never broke eye contact.
Alimkhanuly (14-0, 9KOs) will attempt his third title defense. He claimed the interim version of the WBO middleweight title and was upgraded to full titlist once Demetrius Andrade (32-0, 19KOs) opted to move up in weight in lieu of a mandatory title defense. Alimkhanuly most recently beat Steven Butler via second-round knockout on May 13 in Stockton, California.
Gualtieri (21-0-1, 7KOs) makes his U.S. debut in what also serves as his first title defense.
The 30-year-old German boxer of Italian heritage won the vacant IBF title in a lopsided twelve-round, unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Esquiva Falcao on July 1 in Wuppertal, Germany. The IBF belt was previously held by former two-time unified middleweight titlist Gennadiy Golovkin, who GGGave up the title rather than proceed with what he deemed as an undesirable mandatory versus Falcao.
Rising lightweight Keyshawn Davis (9-0, 6KOs) was a rock-solid 135 pounds for his scheduled ten-round ESPN-televised co-feature versus Philadelphia’s Nahir Albright (16-2, 7KOs), who was 134.9 pounds.
Davis fights for the third time this year and with room for one more should he win and escape unscathed on Saturday. The 2020 Olympic Silver medalist for the U.S. is rumored to land on the December 9 ESPN show headlined by the Robeisy Ramirez-Rafael Espinoza WBO featherweight title fight.
Albright has won his last two starts. His most recent win came in a minor upset when he earned an eight-round, majority decision over Karlos Balderas on July 28 in Las Vegas.
ESPN+ Preliminary Undercard, 5:55 p.m. ET/4:55 p.m. local time
Richard Torrez Jr (6-0, 6KOs), Tulare, California, 233.1 pounds vs. Tyrrell Anthony Herndon (21-4, 14KOs), San Antonio, 234.8 pounds—6 rounds, heavyweight
Guido Vianello (10-1-1, 9KOs), Las Vegas via Roma, Italy, 241.3 pounds vs. Curtis Harper (14-9, 9KOs), Jacksonville, Florida, 275 ½ pounds—8 rounds, heavyweight
Giovanni Marquez (6-0, 4KOs), Houston, 141.3 pounds vs. Donte Strayhorn (12-4-1, 4KOs), Las Vegas via Cincinnati, 140.2 pounds—6 rounds, junior welterweight
Duke Ragan (8-0, 1KO), Cincinnati, 125.3 pounds vs. Jose Perez (11-1-2, 5KOs), Oak Hill, California, 126.4 pounds—8 rounds, featherweight
Kelvin Davis (9-0, 6KOs), Norfolk, Virginia, 142 pounds vs. Narciso Carmona (11-1-1, 6KOs), Sevilla, Spain, 142.6 pounds—8 rounds, junior welterweight
Alan Garcia (9-0, 8KOs), Ulysses, Kansas, 137.8 pounds vs. Nelson Hampton (10-7, 6KOs), Donna, Texas, 137.3 pounds—6 rounds, lightweight
Humberto Galindo (14-3-1, 11KOs), Tijuana, Mexico, 130.7 pounds vs. Oscar Bravo (25-13, 11KOs), Santiago, Chile, 130.8 pounds—8 rounds, lightweight
Jakhongir Zokirov (pro debut), Dzhizak, Uzbekistan, 265 pounds vs. Guillermo Del Rio (4-4-1, 2KOs), Monterrey, Mexico, 27.1 pounds—4 rounds, heavyweight
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox