This coming Saturday we'll see unbeaten men collide as Zhanibek Alimkhanuly (11-0, 7) and Danny Dignum (14-0-1, 8) clash for the WBO "interim" Middleweight title, which is likely to be upgraded when Demetrius Andrade officially leaves the division and campaign full time at 168lbs.
Of the two men the more impressive is the 29 year old Alimkhanuly, who has began shining in recent bouts, putting things together and beating notable names in the form of Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam. Prior to really breaking out Alimkhanuly had long been regarded as something of a hidden gem that just hadn't quite clicked as a professional. He had been a stellar amateur, and a lot of his amateur traits remained in the early part of his career, particularly in his wins over the likes of Carlos Galvan, Vaughn Alexander and Cristian Olivas. To his credit though it appears those bouts served as his apprenticeship to the professional scene, and his more recent wins have seen him showing more class, more killer instinct and a real bit of spite. His win over Gonzalo Gaston Coria showed that spite, with 2020 KO of the year contender, whilst his wins over Rob Brant and Hassan N'Dam saw him stopping two former world champions and going about it in a methodical and almost sadastic fashion, beating them up round after round, whilst barely taking anything in return.
In the ring Alimkhanuly is a sensationally talented boxer. He's never going to go down as a KO artist, but his shots have venom and get opponents respect. He combines high levels skills with impressive speed, a fluidity to his boxing, and a brain that thinks a few steps ahead. He's not going to take risks, or be the most exciting of fighters, but he is going to be a danger man to the division due to his ring IQ, his consistency, and his skills, which are very high level. He takes his time, he allows himself to settle and then chips away at opponents, using educated and intelligent pressure, behind his crisp clean punches. To top it all off, he's also a southpaw, making him even more of a nightmare for opponents, and allowing him to set things up from awkward angles and catch opponent from angles they aren't used to. Against a top pressure fighter, with quick feet he may struggle, but against those who try to box it's hard to see many in the division out boxing him.
Aged 30 English fighter Danny Dignum is also an unbeaten Southpaw. His competition has, however, been a lot less notable than that of Alimkhanuly with his best results being a draw with Andrey Sirotkin last year, and wins over the likes of Grant Dennis, Alfredo Meli, Conrad Cummings and Rafal Jackiewicz. In fact they are his only wins over fighters with winning records. Despite that he will know that he's expected to be the under-dog, and the pressure is on Alimkhanuly to shine, and the focus will be, in many ways, on the Kazakh allowing Dignum to focus on himself and his fight, rather than what's going on outside of himself.
In the ring Dignum is a fight who likes to come forward, stalking his opponents and get inside. He's a patient stalker in many ways and does have some nice counter punching in his arsenal. He is however a bit predictable. He doesn't mix things up too much, and despite having nice counters he does seem a bit pedestrian, without too much sharpness or fluidity to his work. In fact he quite often looks sloppy with his punched, and really slow with his straight shots. There's almost a ponderous nature to how he fights. Worryingly for him is the fact opponents can catch him with straight shots of their own, and he's not a particularly smart defensive fighter. That's not to say he's there to be hit, but his defenses are relatively limited, even at the low level he's been fighting at. He's what we consider a good continental level fighter, a bit like a solid OPBF champion, but that level is well below genuine world class and we suspect that will be seen here.
Coming in to this we suspect Dignum just doesn't have what it takes to really test Alimkhanuly and his slow, almost deliberate pressure style will actually be made to order for the Kazakh. Alimkhanuly's crisper, cleaner, harder and sharper punches will make the most of Dignum's porous defense. And round by round Alimkhanuly's shots will chip away at Dignum, who will be left swollen, bloodied, beaten and eventually stopped, either by the referee or his team, knowing that he has stepped too much in this bout.
Prediction - TKO9 Alimkhanuly
The Russian revolution has been remarkable over the last few years and has really left major question over what boxing would have been like had Russian fighters been allowed to turn professional back in the heyday of the Heavyweight division. Would the likes of Ali, Foreman and Fraizer have been the dominant forces or would the Russians have burst their bubble?
Whatever your views on the above question one thing cannot be denied, Russian's are becoming stars in professional boxing and in a big way. We have fighters like Sergey Kovalev, Ruslan Provodnikov and Denis Lebedev who are insanely fun to watch, we have skilled prospects such as Konstantin Ponomarev and Arif Magomedov and we have a lot of fighters on the verges of making a name for themselves. One man who is hoping to make a name for himself this coming weekend is unbeaten former amateur stand out Matt Korobov (24-0, 14), a man once touted for major success though left in the shadows of many of his compatriots. To make a name for himself Korobov will need to get past popular Irishman Andy Lee (33-2, 23) and claim the WBO Middleweight title.
For those who haven't seen much of Korobov he's a man who combines genuine talent and power with real frustration. When he's on song he looks really fantastic however he can often look like he's going through the motions and as if he can't be bothered to really pick up the pace. It can be hard to watch him at times though you do so to see the odd spark of aggression or moment of magic.
The reason why Korobov is so frustrating is because we know how good he is. As an amateur he was sensational and a 2-time world amateur champion with notable wins over a who's who. He combined well drilled skills with solid speed and very impressive power. As a pro we've seen some of the skills and combinations he can rattle off, in fact at times we've been wowed by him. Sadly however those moments have been few and far between. It may be that Korobov is holding them in the locker for when he needs to draw on his immense ability and amateur experience or it maybe that he simply doesn't have it in him to show more than a few flashed of brilliance.
Like Korobov there has been a lot of expectation on the shoulders of Andy Lee. The Irish fighter was one of the final fighters working with the great Manny Steward before the trainer passed away and for years Steward told everyone that Lee was one of the best fighters he had worked with. Whatever Steward saw in Lee hasn't been fully shown to the world though it's clear he is a talented fighter with traits many top fighters wish they could have.
Stood at 6'2” with a huge wingspan and fighting from the southpaw stance Lee is certainly a tricky fighter when he's in full flow. Like many Steward protégés Lee makes the most of his natural size and is a pure outside fighter who makes the most of his sharp and rangy jab on the outside. On the inside Lee can be out worked though can often find a way to create distance with his clever movement and spiteful jab. Like many Steward fighters the jab is the key to Lee's boxing but his straight can be destructive and his right hook proved it's worth earlier this year when he detonated on John Jackson with a KO of the year contender.
Lee's KO of Jackson is fresh in the memory of most fans and will certainly be something that Korobov is aware of, like wise the jab of Lee. In many ways however we've seen the best of Lee and we've seen him twice cave in when the going got tough with both Brian Vera and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr breaking down the Irish man who was also in trouble against Jackson before landing the hail Mary. With that in mind we suspect Korobov will bring a lot of intelligent pressure, and try to grind down the Irishman who will be forced to box off the back foot. The big question is how does Lee handle the pressure form Korobov? We suspect he won't handle it well for long and although Lee will probably have great success early on with his jab we think by round 6 or 7 he'll be waning big time as Korobov starts to open up his locker and show us the tools he at the ready for when he needs them.
The winner of this bout is set to fight unbeaten British contender Billy Joe Saunders, who recently defeated Chris Eubank Jr. Although Saunders is unbeaten and talented we tend to feel that both Korobov and Lee will have too much for him.
(Image courtesy of instantboxing.com)
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.