Steven Ward to face Kazakh ‘phenom’ and two-time world silver medalist for title in Kazakhstan

Belfast star Steven Ward [13(4)-1(1)] will take on undefeated Kazakh ‘phenom’ Kamshybek Kunkabayev for the vacant WBO Asia Pacific cruiserweight title as part of an MTK Fight Night in Kazakhstan on Saturday 27 February.

The event takes place at the Tynyshpayev Academy of Transport and Communications in Almaty, and will be broadcast live in the US on ESPN+ in association with Top Rank, and worldwide on IFL TV.

It sees Ward look to make a big statement at cruiserweight, as he takes on highly-rated Kunkabayev. The Kazach is a two time World amateur Championship a silver medalist, securing a podium at both the 2017 and 2019 Championships – and hasn’t looked to bad as a pro.

The skilled and powerful operator has been just as dominant since entering the paid ranks, picking up a TKO win over 20-1 opponent Issa Akberbayev in his debut last August, before following that up by becoming the first man to stop Serhiy Radchenko in December.

Former WBO European light-heavyweight champion Ward successfully won his cruiserweight debut with a victory over Jone Volau last September, and was also recently involved in an exhibition bout with strongman Thor Bjornsson.

It was suggested ‘The Quiet Man’ would go the British route and try and make an impact on a vibrant domestic scene. However, it seems the ranking title path appeals for now – and somehow the Belfast fighter is trading leather for an Asian title.

Elsewhere on next month’s card, Janibek Alimkhanuly (9-0, 5 KOs) makes his much-anticipated return to his home country for the first time since 2017, as he looks to build on the incredible performances he has produced in the United States in recent years.

Nurtas Azhbenov (10-0, 4 KOs) meets Evgeny Smirnov (13-1-3, 3 KOs) for the WBC Asia Continental lightweight title, while amateur superstar Hovhannes Bachkov (1-0) takes part in his second professional fight.

Talgat Shayken (3-0, 2 KOs) steps up against former Russian champion Evgeny Pavko (18-3-1, 13 KOs), while the likes of Nurdos Tolebay (4-0, 1 KO), Ali Baloyev (10-0, 7 KOs), Abay Tolesh (6-1, 4 KOs) and more are in action on the undercard.

Head of MTK Kazakhstan Askar Salikbayev said: “We’re delighted to be bringing this amazing event to Almaty next month, featuring a superb main event between Steven Ward and Kamshybek Kunkabayev.

“Kunkabayev is an incredible talent, and faces a tough test against Ward, who deserves a lot of credit for coming to Almaty for this fight.

“There are also some superb boxers on the undercard, including Janibek Alimkhanuly, Nurtas Azhbenov, Hovhannes Bachkov, Talgat Shayken and more, so I am very excited for this card.”

Jonny Stapleton

Irish-boxing.com contributor for 15 years and editor for the past decade. Have been covering boxing for over 16 years and writing about sport for a living for 19 years. Former Assistant Sports editor for the Gazette News Paper Group and former Tallaght Voice Sports Editor. Have had work published in publications around the world when working as a freelance journalist. Also co-founder of Junior Sports Media and Leinster Rugby PRO of the Year winner. email: editoririshboxing@gmail.com