2022 started with a whimper but we have entered a span of solid fights and possibly none bigger than Canelo Alvarez vs Dmitry Bivol with Alvarez being the biggest star in boxing again venturing up to 175 lbs. This is an intriguing match up as Alvarez will be stepping into the ring with his most difficult opponent since Gennady Golovkin in the undefeated WBA light heavyweight champion. Dmitry Bivol poses multiple problems for Canelo Alvarez heading into their main event tomorrow night at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on DAZN. Bivol will have a slight reach advantage of 2″ and a height advantage of 3.5″ and enters as an experienced twelve round fighter. He has held his title since 2017 when he stopped Trent Broadhurst in one round and has since reached the twelfth round in all seven of his title defenses. He has lost very few rounds over the course of the seven fights and has defeated several fighters who have been a champion or fought for a championship including Jean Pascal, Joe Smith Jr, and Sullivan Barrera.
Bivol should pose several stylistic challenges for Alvarez to overcome. He is a very mobile fighter and relies on skillful footwork both for his defense and his angles to create offense. Canelo though athletic does have some issues with movers like Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout, Billy Joe Saunders and of Course Floyd Mayweather. Bivol also has a solid and accurate jab and that was a punch that Gennady Golovkin was able to employ effectively in two fights. Mixed with his size, height, and reach these two attributes of movement and jabbing already make him a difficult foe. In addition to these skills are the intangibles of conditioning and punch resistance. Pascal and Smith Jr are both heavy handed punchers and outside of one big shot from Smith, Bivol has been rock solid in taking punches. Bivol lacks the power of Golovkin where it is unlikely he will score a knockout, it is possible he can use his quick jab to set up combinations and use his feet to get out of danger.
Canelo Alvarez however will be Bivol’s best opponent to date and enters with sixty professional fights and numerous main events, title fights, and high profile match ups. Canelo is also accustomed to giving up height and reach in his fights. Canelo also happens to be on the best span of his career since the Golovkin rematch going 7-0 with 5 KO’s and unifying 168 lbs. Alvarez has also faced an array of styles from brawlers like James Kirkland and Alfredo Angulo to slick movers like Lara and Trout, to boxer punchers like Golovkin, to legends like Mayweather Jr. He has seen many styles, stances, and body types and might be the deepest experienced pro in boxing. He has a relentless body attack, excellent head movement, great reflexes and still carries fight ending power. While Bivol has shown to be sturdy as a pro he was rocked against Smith Jr briefly in the middle rounds. Punch for punch Smith is a harder puncher than Alvarez but Alvarez is a much better boxer who will be able to set up his shots more. The body is also an available target and that will be part of the secret to winning this fight for Alvarez.
ESPN’s Tim Bradley and Ian Parker both pick Saul Alvarez to win by TKO
I believe this one goes all twelve rounds and will be a competitive fight with Alvarez getting the decision. I feel he has more layers to his game and his experience will trump any size disadvantage he may have. Bivol has elements of his game that historically have given Alvarez fits but I do not think it is enough to win. Bivol has not really been in tough fights so while he has occasionally failed to dazzle in routine seeming performances not leaving second gear; we also do not know what he is made of when the going gets tough. Maybe Alvarez can bring out the lion in Bivol and we can see elements of his ability that he has not shown us. I just feel that Alvarez brings a level of athleticism and speed of a lower weight that negates Bivol’s speed and quickness at the weight. What Bivol’s biggest advantage over traditional 175 lbers will be negated by what Alvarez brings and Alvarez is used to being outsized against a guy not known for relying on a physical approach to the ring. I anticipate a highly cerebral fight early with a quick pace but by the mid point I expect Alvarez to have him figured out. The only X factor I can see here is Bivol having a better gas tank and staying the course down the stretch. We did see Bivol struggle against Richards in the UK where he won a fairly close decision with two judges scoring it 115-113 and 115-114 for Bivol indicating a very close fight. It was not a very inspiring performance from Bivol, a sign or a blip? Who knows but this is an interesting match up for sure.