May was another busy month in the boxing world and saw some big stars in action. That included the likes of undisputed champions Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Katie Taylor stepping into the ring to different results.
Alvarez retained his undisputed super middleweight championship with a decision win over John Ryder while undisputed lightweight champ Taylor came up short in a bid to become undisputed in two divisions when she lost a decision to super lightweight champion Chantelle Cameron.
There was a lot more action that may have slipped under the radar, including several world championship battles and big upsets.
With that in mind (and only one major fight on the calendar this weekend), let’s take a look at some of the boxing action you may have missed in May.
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Jason Moloney def. Vincent Astrolabio, May 13
May was a roller coaster for the Moloney twins. Jason was up first, facing Astrolabio for the vacant WBO bantamweight title. It was the third time Moloney had fought for a world title in his career, previously losing to Emmanuel Rodriguez in 2018 and Naoya Inoue in 2020. Moloney made good on the best opportunity yet to become world champion when he faced Astrolabio.
For 12 rounds, Moloney outboxed Astrolabio. The Filipino spent the fight looking for one big shot while getting largely picked apart by the Aussie. It wasn’t an entertaining scrap, which the crowd made sure the fighters knew, but it was a solid strategic approach by Moloney, who clearly deserved the decision though he only took two of the three official scorecards. The final tallies were 114-114, 115-113, and 116-112.
Janibek Alimkhanuly def. Steven Butler, May 13
WBO middleweight champion Alimkhanuly hadn’t looked like the same terrifying force that made him one of the top threats in the division in his previous fight against Denzel Bentley. But the Kazakh fighter got back on track against Butler.
It took less than two rounds for Alimkhanuly to score three knockdowns and force referee Jack Reiss to call a halt to the bout. There was simply nothing Butler could do to keep Alimkhanuly off of him. Alimkhanuly bulled forward over and over, landing at will and making the second successful defense of his world title.
Junto Nakatani def. Andrew Moloney, May 20
One week after Jason Moloney became world champion, his twin brother, Andrew, attempted to do the same as he faced Nakatani for the vacant WBO title at 115 pounds. To say things did not go well for Moloney against Nakatani would be an understatement.
Nakatani’s power was simply too much, scoring knockdowns in the second and 11th rounds. After Round 11, Moloney’s corner was conflicted about sending their fighter back out, but they ultimately allowed him to continue. That proved a big mistake as Nakatani landed a massive left hand that knocked Moloney out cold and almost certainly locked up Knockout of the Year for Nakatani.
Oscar Valdez def. Adam Lopez, May 20
After more than a year out of action, Valdez returned to the ring against Lopez, a fighter Valdez had already defeated in 2019 at a lower weight. It wasn’t a thrilling performance from Valdez, but it was a solid showing against a tough fighter as Valdez cruised to a win by scores of 97-93, 98-92, and 98-91.
More importantly, Valdez’s win gives him a chance to become a world champion for the third time in his career. He will face Emanuel Navarrete for the WBO junior lightweight title later in 2023. A win would secure Valdez a world title in the third weight class of his career.
Luis Alberto Lopez def. Michael Conlan, May 28
Fighting for a world title for the second time in his career, Conlan again came up short. In March 2022, Conlan fell victim to a late comeback — and Knockout of the Year — from Leigh Wood in his first world title bid. Unlike the Wood fight, Conlan never had control of the bout with Lopez.
The two men traded punches from the jump, producing some interesting action. Still, it was Lopez getting the better of almost every exchange and hurting Conlan with some regularity. The Irish faithful were silenced in the fifth round as their hometown fighter was drilled by a Lopez uppercut that ended the fight. The win was Lopez’s first defense of his IBF featherweight title and sets him up with plenty of interesting options for his next fight.
Chris Billam-Smith def. Lawrence Okolie, May 28
The chaos of May 28 saw three favorites lose in world title main events. Arguably the most shocking of those results was Okolie losing to Billam-Smith. Okolie had not developed a reputation as a fan-friendly fighter, but his clinch-heavy strategy did not make for entertaining fights.
Okolie’s exact style was one of the things that cost him in the fight. Billam-Smith scored three knockdowns throughout the fight but Okolie did himself absolutely no favors in his response, losing two further points for excessive clinching. Reasonably, Okolie could have lost more points or even been disqualified. Instead, he simply lost a majority decision. Billam-Smith won the fight by scores of 112-112, 115-108, and 116-107, taking the WBO cruiserweight title in the process. Despite the right man winning, there was still some controversy because of one judge scoring the fight a draw, which suggested Okolie dominated the fight and only lost because of the five points lost due to knockdowns and deductions when Billam-Smith seemed to clearly have won more rounds instead of just having a few big moments.