EXCLUSIVE — There are few better exponents of the art of hitting and not getting hit in boxing today than WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol.
In his previous fight, challenger Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez landed 107 of 878 punches thrown — a paltry 12.2%. That’s a heartbreaking, soul-crushing amount of missing and Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) cruised to a wide unanimous decision win over the previously undefeated Mexican in Abu Dhabi last November.
It was a similar story for Ramirez’s illustrious compatriot Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, who was nullified as Bivol scored a huge upset victory over the pound-for-pound superstar five months earlier.
If anyone can make trading blows with heavy-handed 12-stone fighters look like an artful, painless pastime, it’s Bivol. However, the 33-year-old started boxing when he was six. Hours and hours of repetition over the course of more than a quarter of a century have produced the master combatant voted Sporting News Men’s Boxer of the Year for 2022.
It’s also taken a toll in terms of wear and tear. That’s part of the reason why we haven’t seen Bivol after the defining year of his career until now, when he will defend his belt against Britain’s Lyndon Arthur on Saturday’s blockbuster card in Saudi Arabia.
“To be honest, I wanted to fight in June or July. I wanted so much but at the same time I needed some rest, some mental rest,” he told The Sporting News. “I think I made the right decision — ‘okay, we need to rest and we need to make a treatment for my arm. Then we will go forward again, move forward with a fresh body, fresh mind.’
“I was enjoying that time being the fighter of the year. I could really calm down, enjoy life, fix everything, be fresh and then move forward again.”
Will Bivol vs Canelo 2 happen?
Bivol still undertook training camps either side of tending to arm and hand complaints and it’s safe to say that if one fight in particular had been made he’d have been patched up and ready to go.
After beating Ramirez, he floated the idea of dropping down to 168 lbs for a rematch with Canelo to challenge for his rival’s undisputed crown. Alvarez remained insistent that any return should take place back at 175 lbs so he could right a wrong, leaving negotiations at a stalemate.
“For me now, I’m forgetting about Canelo,” Bivol said. “I’m not talking about him. I have my way and I’m moving for my way. It’s Lyndon Arthur and then I have my goal. It’s undisputed in the light heavyweight division.
“Then we will see. Maybe Canelo, maybe cruiserweight. I don’t know. We will see. But today I’m focused on Lyndon.”
What is Lyndon Arthur’s boxing record?
Bivol is a heavy betting favourite heading into the bout against Arthur (23-1, 16 KOs), who is on a four-fight winning streak after his sole career defeat to domestic rival Anthony Yarde. The two-time world title challenger avenged Arthur’s 2020 upset points win via stoppage.
Providing their styles and respective levels mesh well, it should be a pleasing spectacle for pursuits, with Bivol a master of movement, distance and timing and Arthur boasting a masterful left jab.
“He’s using his jab and he has a good right counter-punch, a straight punch and uppercut,” said Bivol, who is appreciative of his opponents’ skills. “He’s a very classic boxer, a very schooled boxer and it’s a good challenge for me.
“You know, I just love challenges. I like different boxers’ styles. I like to check my skills against short guys, against big guys, against southpaws, against different guys. He’s something new and I want to prove for myself that my skills are better.”
Will Dmirty Bivol face Artur Beterbiev in 2024?
The challenge most fans are keen to see Bivol tackle is fellow Russian, WBC, IBF and WBO light-heavyweight champion and all-round wrecking machine Artur Beterbiev.
Beterbiev faces former super middleweight world champion Callum Smith in an eagerly anticipated defence on January 13, a fight in which Bivol expects his countryman’s aptitude at close range to prove decisive if Smith neglects to use his reach advantage.
Irrespective of how that fight pans out, Bivol has already taken part in talks over boxing the winner back in Saudi Arabia later in 2024.
“It’s a big goal and when we signed the contract we discussed not only fighting against Lyndon Arthur, we discussed about another fight too for four belts. We discussed undisputed.
“They want to make this fight and they can make this fight. This is really good for me. It’s what I need.”
Has WBC banned Russian boxers?
The WBC’s stance on not recognising Russian and Belarussian fighters in its rankings since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine represents a stumbling block when it comes to Bivol contesting an undisputed fight.
Beterbiev fights under the Canadian flag as a long-time resident in North America and a similar option for the Kyrgyzstan-born Bivol to switch allegiance is theoretically on the table.
However, the man himself believes WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman will not stand in the way of an undisputed fight, provided he takes care of business against Arthur.
“I’m not sure that he [WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman] will be against that fight because we were talking with him and I can’t see now that it will be a big problem,” he added.
“I’m glad that Mauricio Sulaiman loves boxing and is interested to see big fights. Bivol vs. Beterbiev is a big fight and I’m glad that he understands that he could give the people a good fight.”
For now, that imperative falls to a refreshed and refocused Bivol and a challenger in Arthur facing the biggest night of his fighting life.