Middleweight Immanuwel Aleem stayed undefeated on the Badou Jack-James DeGale undercard last weekend, stopping fellow unbeaten Ievgen Khytrov in an entertaining scrap. The high-profile win should establish him as a fighter to watch at 160 pounds.
While it is a disappointing loss for Khytrov, the former amateur champion from the Ukraine acquitted himself well. He came back bravely from a Round 3 knockdown and was putting in good work on Aleem when he was caught short in Round 6, when he was finally stopped. Khytrov showcased good combination punching and footwork, but grew too careless whenever he began to land on Aleem consistently. He left an open hole once too often.
So this is a good win for Aleem. He stopped a very good fighter. He did not look outstanding throughout the bout. For one thing, his conditioning looked substandard.
But he has good defensive movement and smart counter punching abilities. He was getting tested and hung tough, waiting for his openings.
Aleem is just 23 and his career has been developing at a nice pace. Khytrov was a nice step up for him, but he has been fighting a reasonable level of competition. His last four opponents have had a combined record of 47-7-1.
At some point during 2017, I would like to see him move another step up the rankings and test himself against an experienced contender some place just outside of the top 10. A fighter like Avtandil Khurtsidze or Willie Monroe Jr. could fit the bill, although both of them might still be a bit too experienced for Aleem at this point. Other good choices might be Dominic Wade, Brian Rose or Matt Korobov.