Liam ‘Beefy’ Smith has been given a world title shot opportunity against WBO middleweight champion Janibek Alimkhanuly after winning just one fight in the 160-lb division. On Wednesday, the WBO ordered 160-lb champion Janibek Alimkhanuly (13-0, 8 KOs) and #1 Liam Smith (33-3-1, 20 KOs) to begin negotiations, giving them 20 days until March 14th to put together a deal before a purse bid was ordered.
For Smith, this title shot is a welcome opportunity, as he’s been trying to get another title shot for the last five years since losing to Jaime Munguia in a bid to capture the WBO 154-lb belt. However, he is currently looking forward to a rematch against Chris Eubank Jr in May or June, which makes his schedule a bit tricky. Eubank Jr has already activated his rematch clause in the contract for his recent fight against Smith last month on January 21st, effectively tying Smith’s hands.
On the other hand, Janibek vs. Liam Smith would be an exciting fight for the fans. Janibek, unlike Eubank Jr, is not weight drained at 160, and he won’t make the same mistakes that Eubank Jr made in his fight against Smith, such as backing into a corner and letting Smith unload on him with everything but the kitchen sink.
If Smith were to beat Janibek, he’d have to do it in the center of the ring, and he’d be facing an active fighter in the prime of his career. Eubank Jr, on the other hand, has thrown his career away by fighting rarely and only against domestic-level opposition since losing to George Groves in 2018. For that reason, it wasn’t unexpected that Eubank Jr was stopped in four rounds by Liam last January.
However, if Smith beats Eubank Jr in the rematch, he’ll likely have a chance to fight Gennadiy Golovkin, Conor Benn, or Billy Joe Saunders. Those fights will pay better than a title shot against Janibek. Golovkin holds the WBA middleweight title, but he hasn’t said whether he’d be interested in facing Smith. We could hear something if Smith defeats Eubank Jr a second time.
The World Boxing Organization will work down their top 10 ranking until they find a contender willing to challenge Janibek. It is worth noting that Janibek has been avoided by the top guys at 160, starting with the former WBO champion Demetrius Andrade, who vacated rather than fight him.
All in all, this WBO title fight between Janibek Alimkhanuly and Liam Smith has the potential to be an exciting fight. If Smith can come out victorious, it could lead to bigger and better fights in the future.