Janibek Alimkhanuly will face Issah Samir in battle of unbeaten middleweights

Middleweight up-and-comer Janibek Alimkhanuly will face Issah Samir in a 10-round battle of unbeaten fighters on March 28 in the co-feature of unified light heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev's mandatory defense against Meng Fanlong, Top Rank announced on Thursday.

Both fights will be on the Top Rank Boxing on ESPN card (ESPN and ESPN Deportes, 10 p.m. ET, with preliminary bouts streaming on ESPN+ beginning at 7 p.m. ET) at the Videotron Centre in Quebec City, which is not far from Beterbiev's home base in Montreal.

Alimkhanuly (8-0, 4 KOs), who was No. 6 on the ESPN top prospect list at the end of 2019, is a 26-year-old southpaw from Kazakhstan who is trained by International Boxing Hall of Famer Buddy McGirt and fights out of Northridge, California. Alimkhanuly had more than 300 amateur fights, won a gold medal at the 2013 world amateur championships and was a 2016 Olympian, making it to the quarterfinals in Rio de Janeiro.

"I only want the toughest competition. That's why I am a contender after eight pro fights," Alimkhanuly said. "This is a great opportunity to showcase my skills live on ESPN. I will leave Canada with the '0' on my record. I want to thank Samir for taking the fight, but he won't be able to solve the 'Qazaq Style' puzzle."

Samir (18-0, 15 KOs), 30, of Ghana, was a 2008 Olympian who did not turn pro until 2011. He will be fighting outside of his home country for the first time as a professional.

"I am coming to Canada to steal the show," Samir said. "Every time I enter the ring, I fight for Ghana and our great champions who paved the way. Janibek is skilled fighter, but I know he has not fought anyone like me."

The key fight on the ESPN+ stream of preliminary bouts involves heavyweight contender Oscar "Kaboom" Rivas (26-1, 18 KOs), 32, who is from Colombia but based in Montreal. He recently signed a co-promotional contract with Top Rank and in his first of the deal will face 2004 U.S. Olympian Devin Vargas (22-6, 9 KOs), 38, of Toledo, Ohio.

"Oscar Rivas is a dangerous freight train of a heavyweight, and he is in the mix to fight for a world title in 2020," Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said.

Rivas knocked out former world title challenger Bryant Jennings in the 12th round in January 2019 and then suffered his lone loss, a competitive decision against Dillian Whyte for a vacant interim world title last July in London.

"The past year, I have proven I am one of the world's elite heavyweights," Rivas said. "This year, my goal is to prove that I deserve my chance to take on the best heavyweight boxer in the world, Tyson Fury, who is also under contract with Top Rank. On March 28, I will smash my opponent with a spectacular 'Kaboom.'"

Also on the ESPN+ portion of the card:

  • Super middleweight Wilfried Seyi (8-0, 4 KOs), 22, a Montreal-based native of Cameroon, will fight Alan Carrillo (11-4, 8 KOs), 24, of Mexico, in an eight-rounder. Seyi represented Cameroon at the 2016 Rio Olympics and recently qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

  • Junior featherweight Ismael Camacho Garcia (12-2-3, 5 KOs), of Mexico, will face Montreal-based Russian Vislan Dalkhaev (12-1, 3 KOs), 31, in an eight-round fight.

  • Heavyweight prospect Guido "The Gladiator" Vianello (6-0, 6 KOs), 25, a 2016 Italian Olympian, will face an opponent to be determined in an eight-rounder.

  • Montreal-based super middleweight Christian Mbilli (16-0, 15 KOs), 24, a 2016 French Olympian, will face Felipe Ugalde (18-1, 15 KOs), 29, of Mexico, in a 10-rounder.