SAN DIEGO – Dmitry Bivol has reigned as a light heavyweight titlist for more than four years, though never quite emerging as the class of the division.
The unbeaten WBA titlist has earned a reputation for fighting up—and down—to the level of his opposition, although that line of thinking should bode well for his next assignment. Bivol landed a lucrative opportunity to next defend versus Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez (57-1-2, 39KOs), a four-division champion and the sport’s reigning pound-for-pound king who moves up in weight in a bid to become a two-time light heavyweight titlist.
Bivol (19-0, 11KOs) has held the WBA title since a first-round knockout of Trent Broadhurst, having since made seven title defenses including six straight decision victories.
“But I won them,” Bivol pointed out to BoxingScene.com and other reporters during a recent media roundtable ahead of his fight with Alvarez. “I don’t think about finishing the fight by knockout. If you think about it, you forget about your combinations, your game plan. You just have to [fight] in the ring the way you [prepare] in training.
Bivol—a 31-year-old from Kyrgyzstan who has lived in Saint Petersburg, Russia since age eleven—didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his most recent start. A twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over Umar Salamov last December in Ekaterinburg was largely forgettable, as were a May 1 win over Craig Richards in London and an October 2019 victory over Lenin Castillo in Chicago.
“Some people think those fights did not go the way I wanted, and those types of opponents weren’t what I wanted,” acknowledges Bivol. “But it led to me getting this fight. I will be at my best physically and ready to perform at the highest level against Canelo on May 7.”
Still, Bivol has registered a few wins that have aged well. A November 2018 victory over Jean Pascal came prior to the Haitian-Canadian resurrecting his career with wins over Marcus Browne and Badou Jack. Bivol survived a scare at the end of the tenth round in an otherwise dominant victory over Joe Smith Jr. (28-3, 22KOs), now the WBO titlist who is set to meet lineal/WBC/IBF champ Artur Beterbiev (17-0, 17KOs) in a title unification clash later this summer.
The coronation has already begun for Alvarez to get past Bivol and then eventually challenge the Beterbiev/Smith winner in a four-belt undisputed light heavyweight championship. Alvarez is a -390 favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook, with Bivol currently at +295—the first time in his pro career he will enter a fight as the underdog.