Columnists, Sports

The Four Belt Era: What’s next for Dmitry Bivol?

Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) defeated previously unbeaten Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs) by unanimous decision (117-111, 117-111, 118-110) this past Saturday to retain his WBA “Super” World Light Heavy Title. Even with Ramirez coming into this fight unbeaten and a former super middleweight champion, Bivol was still a sizable favorite.

Unlike in his last fight, Bivol was the smaller man, with Ramirez holding a two-and-a-half-inch height advantage and three extra inches in reach. When the first bell sounded in the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, many expected Ramirez to target the body of Bivol, as body punching is one of Zurdo’s best attributes. However, many were surprised when he didn’t consistently go to the body early in the fight.

Zurdo’s lack of success wasn’t the fault of his own considering Bivol is regarded as one of the top defenders in the sport, if not the best. According to CompuBox, Bivol’s opponents connect a shockingly low 12.7% of the time, the best mark in boxing. On top of his defensive prowess, he is stellar offensively. Bivol is patient and calculated, but we saw him push the pace early, not allowing Zurdo to find a groove. The difference in speed between the two was apparent. Bivol landed a clean combination on the inside and got out quickly,not allowing his opponent to counter.

As the fight wound down, Ramirez started going to the body more, but it was too little too late. Bivol was sharp from bell to bell. The size disadvantage proved to be nothing for Bivol. He found himself against the ropes several times throughout the fight but found no trouble escaping as Zurdo was unable to hold him there. Overall, this was a true all-around performance from Bivol. He was sharp in all aspects of the fight, never allowing the challenger to get going.

For Ramirez, what’s next is unclear. It took him over two years to get a title shot after relinquishing his super middleweight title. On top of that, he is enormous for the light heavyweight division. Another move up in weight could benefit him in the long run.

For Bivol, what’s next is still up in the air. He seemingly has two options for his next fight, which would both be big. The first would be a rematch against Canelo Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs). Bivol upset Alvarez back in May after becoming the undisputed super middleweight champion when Alvarez challenged for the title a division up. The fight was close, but Bivol was the rightful winner. He wants to avenge his most recent loss, as there was a rematch clause in the original contract. Canelo is the biggest star in the sport, so this is a serious option for Bivol. But, he has other things in mind, telling FightHubTV, “money is not the main thing I’m thinking about when I came to boxing, when I box. I want to make history. If I thought about money, I would never be here.”

His goal is to become undisputed, which he could do in a fight against Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs), who holds the other three belts at light heavyweight. Beterbiev is scheduled to fight mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde (22-2, 21 KOs) early next year. Planned for late October of this year, an injury to the champion forced the rescheduling.

Assuming Beterbiev beats Yarde early next year, a fight for undisputed with Bivol should be next, but it’s unfortunately not going to be that easy. With the current schedule, there is room for the two to fight in the back half of 2023, but Canelo is standing in the way.

After his most recent victory over Gennady Golovkin (42-2-1, 37 KOs), Alvarez sustained a wrist injury that required surgery, rendering him unable to punch for a long time. If Canelo were to be next for Bivol, this injury would push back that fight, pushing back even further a fight with Beterbiev for undisputed. A fight with Alvarez is not easy either.

Dmitry Bivol deserves an opportunity to unify the division, but a lot stands in the way. He is coming off the best year of his career and has found his way onto pound-for-pound lists while continuing to climb them. In a sense, he is lucky that boxing’s biggest star picked to fight him. Bivol has significantly benefited from the Canelo fight. He has become a star because of his performance on that night. But, it’s most important to remember that Bivol has the skills and work ethic needed to sustain long-term success and, most importantly, the mindset.

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