Alimkhanuly destroys Dignum; Herring retires after loss to Ortiz

The middleweight division officially has a new boogeyman. Janibek “Qazaq Style” Alimkhanuly destroyed the previously unbeaten Danny Dignum with a fight-ending uppercut in the second round to win the vacant WBO Interim middleweight world title Saturday evening at Resorts World Las Vegas.

Janibek (12-0, 8 KOs), a 2016 Olympian from Kazakhstan, landed 15 of his final 17 power shots and 21 of 33 overall. Dignum (14-1-1, 8 KOs), from Essex, England, formerly held the WBO European title, but was no match for the sensational southpaw. Janibek knocked down Dignum in the opening round, and it was only a matter of time until the hammer dropped.

And, at 2:11 of round two, Janibek’s “Qazaq Thunder” landed flush and caused Dignum’s head to ricochet off the canvas.

Photos: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

“I am in the ring right now, and I want to tell every champion in this weight class, I am here waiting for you. I am asking every champion to come and fight me,” Janibek said. “I told {Dignum} I wish him luck in the future. I think he’s a good fighter. He showed good skills and has a big future.”

“Janibek is the next middleweight superstar,” Top Rank’s BNoThere is no doubt that he is the future of the division. What a sensational performance from a great young man and fighter.”

Ortiz Stuns Herring

Youth toppled experience, as the 26-year-old Jamaine “The Technician” Ortiz defeated former world champion Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring by 10-round unanimous decision in the lightweight co-feature (96-94 and 97-93 2x).

Ortiz (16-0-1, 8 KOs), from Worcester, Massachusetts, entered the fight as the betting favorite, but , he and Herring (23-4, 11 KOs) fought on mostly even terms in the early going. They clashed heads on multiple occasions, but as the fight wore on, it was Ortiz who was quicker on the trigger. From the seventh round on, it was all Ortiz, who won the final four rounds on all three scorecards to secure the career-defining victory.

Herring, who lost his world title to Shakur Stevenson last October, indicated this fight could be his last.

“I still got a lot of work to do. I’m just growing and going at the pace I’m going. I gotta learn quick. I gotta pick things up a little bit. I’m not afraid of challenges, and I’m here to prove I’m the best to myself, not anyone else,” Ortiz said. “I feel like I could’ve done a lot better, a lot cleaner {of a} performance. I’m hard on myself. I’m always going to be hard on myself. Much respect to a former world champion. That was an achievement I wanted to do in my career.”

Herring said, “He had a better output. I wasn’t tired or anything. He just beat me to the draw…. Jamaine was just the better man. Maybe this is it.”

Welterweight: Tiger Johnson (4-0, 3 KOs) TKO 3 Agustin Kucharski (8-5-1, 3 KOs), :54. Johnson is making this professional game look easy. The U.S. Olympic star, from Cleveland, rolled through Kucharski, busting up and bruising the Argentinean veteran. Johnson notched a pair of knockdowns, both coming courtesy of his laser-sharp right hand. Kucharski, who turned pro in 2017, had never been stopped as a pro entering this fight.

Featherweight: Adam Lopez (16-3, 6 KOs) UD 8 William Encarnacion (19-3, 15 KOs), Scores: 76-74 and 77-74 2x. Lopez, the all-action star from Glendale, California, did not have an easy time of it against Dominican veteran Encarnacion. Lopez was knocked down with right hands in the first and third rounds, but he won the final five rounds on the judges’ cards to snatch victory from near-defeat. Lopez entered the fight coming off a disappointing no-contest and left the ring with new life in the featherweight ranks.

Junior Lightweight: Karlos Balderas (13-1, 11 KOs) UD 6 Ruben Cervera (13-3, 11 KOs), Scores: 58-54 2x and 57-55. Balderas saw his three-bout knockout streak come to an end, but he knocked down Cervera in the first and third rounds to build an early lead. Cervera swept the final two rounds on all three judges’ cards to tighten the margins.

Featherweight: Jessie Magdaleno (29-1, 18 KOs) UD 8 Edy Valencia (19-7-6, 7 KOs), Scores: 80-72 3x. After nearly two years away from the ring, former junior featherweight world champion Magdaleno returned in front of the hometown fans and turned away Mexican veteran Valencia. Magdaleno has now won four straight since losing his title to Isaac Dogboe in April 2018.

Featherweight: Duke Ragan (6-0, 1 KO) UD 4 Victorino Gonzalez (5-3, 2 KOs), Scores: 40-36 3x. Ragan, a U.S. Olympic silver medalist, won his second fight in as many months, coasting to a wide points win over Gonzalez. Ragan starred for Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics, and after an extended layoff, he has hit his stride as a pro.

Lightweight: Giovanni Cabrera (20-0, 7 KOs) UD 8 Elias Araujo (21-5, 8 KOs), Scores: 79-72, 78-73 and 77-74. The scores were wide, but southpaw stylist Cabrera was forced to work all eight rounds against the hard-charging Araujo. Cabrera had a point deducted for low blows in the sixth and closed with a strong eighth round to earn his second win since signing a promotional contract with Top Rank.

Lightweight: Charlie Sheehy (3-0, 2 KOs) TKO 4 Burnell Jenkins (2-2, 1 KO), 2:58.

Junior Welterweight: Kasir Goldston (4-0-1, 1 KO) DRAW 4 Yaniel Alvarez (2-1-1, 1 KO), Scores: 39-37 Goldston and 38-38 2x.

Olympian Tiger Johnson returns on Alimkhanuly-Dignum undercard

Tiger Johnson has been ready for prime time ever since representing the U.S. at last summer’s Tokyo Olympics. The welterweight standout will get a chance to put his skills on display in prime time as he fights an opponent to be named in a six-round special feature Saturday, May 21, at the Resorts World Event Center at Resorts World Las Vegas. Johnson’s bout will open the ESPN telecast of the Janibek Alimkhanuly-Danny Dignum WBO Interim middleweight world title bout.

Alimkhanuly-Dignum, a 10-round lightweight co-feature between Jamel Herring and Jamaine Ortiz, and Johnson’s return will air live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.

Following his Olympic run, Johnson (3-0, 2 KOs) made an impressive pro debut by stopping Antonius Grable in the fourth round last November on the Terence Crawford-Shawn Porter undercard. The 23-year-old followed up that performance with a decision win over Xavier Madrid and a fourth-round TKO over Sebastian Gabriel Chaves.

The following undercard bouts are scheduled to stream live on ESPN+ beginning at 5:15 p.m. ET/2:15 p.m. PT.

  • Southern California standout Adam “Blunose” Lopez (15-3, 6 KOs) will face Dominican puncher William Encarnacion (19-2, 15 KOs) in an eight-round featherweight bout. Lopez became a fan favorite after a breakout performance against Oscar Valdez in November 2019. Despite losing that fight, Lopez demonstrated the poise and composure that would eventually lead him to wins over Louie Coria, Jason Sanchez, and a razor-thin majority decision loss to former world champion Isaac Dogboe. The 26-year-old faces yet another tough challenge in Encarnacion, who is coming off a loss against top contender Abraham Nova.

  • 2016 U.S. Olympian Karlos Balderas (12-1, 11 KOs) will take on Colombian Ruben Cervera (13-2, 11 KOs) in a junior lightweight clash scheduled for eight or six rounds. Balderas is coming off three consecutive stoppage victories since signing with Top Rank last year.

  • Former world champion Jessie Magdaleno (28-1, 18 KOs) returns from a nearly two-year layoff to fight Mexico’s Edy Valencia Mercado (19-6-6, 7 KOs) in an eight-rounder at featherweight. Magdaleno has won three in a row since losing the WBO junior featherweight crown to Isaac Dogboe in April 2018.

  • U.S. Olympic silver medalist Duke Ragan (5-0, 1 KO), from Cincinnati, Ohio, will put his unbeaten record on the line against Victorino Gonzalez (5-2, 2 KOs) in a featherweight bout scheduled for six or four rounds.

  • Steven “So Cold” Nelson (17-0, 14 KOs), from Omaha, Nebraska, returns from an extended layoff to take on Louis Rose (17-3-1, 7 KOs) in an eight-round light heavyweight battle. Nelson, who knocked out DeAndre Ware in September 2020, suffered a torn Achilles shortly after that bout.

The undercard will also feature three swing bouts:

  • Undefeated lightweight contender Giovanni “El Cabron” Cabrera (19-0, 7 KOs), a Chicago native who signed with Top Rank earlier this year, will face Argentinean veteran Elias Araujo (21-4, 8 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

  • Lightweight prospect Charlie Sheehy (2-0, 2 KOs), a former Team USA amateur standout from Brisbane, California, returns in a four-rounder against New Orleans native Burnell Jenkins (2-1, 1 KO).

  • Rising junior welterweight Kasir “Mazzi” Goldston (4-0, 1 KO) will fight Cuban spoiler Yaniel Alvarez (2-1, 1 KO) in a bout scheduled for six or four rounds.

Alimkhanuly-Dignum, Herring-Ortiz set for 5/21 in Vegas

Middleweight contender Janibek “Qazaq Style” Alimkhanuly has been anxiously waiting for the main event spotlight, and on Saturday, May 21, he’ll hope to seize it. Alimkhanuly will face undefeated Englishman Danny Dignum in a 12-round showdown for the vacant WBO Interim middleweight world title at Resorts World Event Center at Resorts World Las Vegas.

In the co-feature, former junior world champion Jamel “Semper Fi” Herring returns to the lightweight division in a 10-rounder against undefeated NABF titleholder Jamaine “The Technician” Ortiz.

Alimkhanuly-Dignum, and Herring-Ortiz will air live on ESPN, ESPN Deportes, and ESPN+.

“Janibek is a special talent, one of the very best to come from Eastern Europe in recent years,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum. “He’s getting the platform he deserves — a Las Vegas main event on ESPN — and I expect him to look sensational against a tough Englishman like Danny Dignum. Janibek has everything it takes to reign as middleweight world champion for a very long time.”

Alimkhanuly (11-0, 7 KOs) is a 2016 Olympian who has been on the fast track to a world title shot ever since knocking out 50-fight veteran Milton Nuñez in his pro debut. The Kazakh southpaw then racked up eight additional wins before scoring eighth-round stoppages over former world champions Rob Brant and Hassan N’Dam. Despite only 11 fights, Alimkhanuly has become an actively avoided fighter within his division, as several recognizable names at 160 pounds chose other options when opportunity knocked. With this shot at the interim title, he’ll finally get his chance on the main event stage.

Alimkhanuly said, “Demetrius Andrade and Jaime Munguia avoided fighting me, so I give Danny Dignum a lot of credit for stepping up to the plate. I will show the entire world true ‘Qazaq Style’ on May 21, and I will leave the ring as the WBO Interim middleweight champion. While the division’s top names are avoiding me, they won’t be able to run forever. I can’t wait to put on a spectacular showing at Resorts World Las Vegas.”

Dignum (14-0-1, 8 KOs) spent the better part of his amateur career at light heavyweight. In fact, the Essex, England, native had never made the 160-pound limit until November 2019, when he scored a fifth-round TKO over Conrad Cummings to snatch the WBO European crown. Dignum has made three defenses of his regional title, one of which ended in a split draw against Andrey Sirotkin. In February, he knocked down Grant Dennis three times en route to a sixth-round stoppage victory. Dignum will enter the ring with a height and size advantage in this all-southpaw battle.

Herring (23-3, 11 KOs), a U.S. Marine Corps veteran and 2012 U.S. Olympian, began his pro career with a somewhat difficult run at 135 pounds. However, after signing with Top Rank and dropping down to junior lightweight, he revitalized his career with an impressive knockout over Juan Pablo Sanchez on the undercard of Jorge Linares-Vasiliy Lomachenko. Herring only needed two additional fights before upsetting Masayuki Ito for the WBO 130-pound crown. Herring made three tough defenses against Lamont Roach Jr., Jonathan Oquendo and Carl Frampton before losing his belt to Shakur Stevenson in October 2021. With this championship experience under his belt, Herring is ready to give it another go at 135 pounds.

“I’m happy to be back, starting the new year with a fresh start,” Herring said/ “A lot has changed since I was last in the ring. I am working with a new trainer, Manny Robles, and returning to the lightweight division for this upcoming fight. I’m optimistic that a victory here will place me back in the title picture at either lightweight or junior lightweight.”

Ortiz (15-0-1, 8 KOs) is a quick-handed boxer whose only blemish is a majority draw against then-undefeated prospect Joseph Adorno. The 25-year-old demonstrated speed and volume punching in that fight, qualities that helped him obtain a unanimous decision win over Nahir Albright back in February to capture the NABF crown. This will be a considerable step up in opposition for Ortiz, who will have his second shot at fighting on a Top Rank on ESPN card.