Dmitry Bivol performed to the highest level in his boxing and won a sound unanimous decision over Mexican superstar Saul Canelo Alvarez at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Bivol was stoically confident in the lead up to the fight and despite being the champion and being sent out first and introduced first he did not let the moment shock him. After a few close rounds to start the fight the WBA light heavyweight champion took control of the action behind a persistent jab and expert footwork. He simply never gave Alvarez the opportunity to get set as the power puncher that he is and maintained a range that kept him safe from counter punches. By the middle of the fight Alvarez was beginning to look gassed and out of ideas as he could not penetrate the high guard of Bivol. Canelo began to go to the ropes and wave Bivol in much like he did in the first Golovkin fight and Bivol did not take the bait. Bivol would do just enough to win the exchange and score punches and escape without a receipt.
In the end I had the fight 117-111 which appears to be in the ballpark of where a lot scorers online saw the fight. The official judges all scored the contest 115-113 and all had Alvarez ahead 40-36 after the initial four rounds. In fact, Bivol had to win the twelfth and final round in order to secure the win and not settle for a draw. While the rounds were close it is hard to fathom all four going to Alvarez and that the judges were in such agreement. Canelo does have a history of favorable judging, no I am not saying he wins robberies but he has had some very wide scores in his favor in close fights. 115-113 feels a little too close as I believe the only clear round for Alvarez was the ninth round where Bivol seemed to take a break. The judges may have been swayed by the punches that were landing on arms and shoulders though he would occasionally sneak an uppercut through the guard. There were moments where Bivol would languish on the ropes and let Alvarez tee off which I thought was foolish because he was so good on the outside and was giving Alvarez opportunities and this clearly swayed the judges. Yes Canelo did deliberately attack the arms but a lot of his intended headshots landed on the guard. When Canelo did hit him the punches had no effect on the champion.
Bivol hinted at following the Kovalev approach where Sergey Kovalev was actually ahead on two judges scores before being knocked out late in the fight. Bivol followed that success with straight punches going with multiple jabs, followed by crosses and did this to both the head and body. Another thing he did quite well in the fight was mix up his combinations. He would change the amount of punches he threw in a given series. What this did was have Canelo anticipating three punches and he would get hit with a fourth when trying to transition to offense, I saw this happen several times. There was a turning point in the seventh or eighth round where Bivol went from shelling up to shelling up then attacking and taking back the center of the ring and the initiative. Ring Magazine writer Michael Montero stated on his podcast that he felt if Bivol began attacking the body earlier he may have stopped Alvarez, I am not so sure on that but I felt Bivol took the proper risk/reward approach in the ring.
I fully expected Bivol to be a tough opponent for Alvarez but in my prediction article I picked Canelo to win a decision. I based my prediction on Bivol having the tools to win but not fully sure he had the mentality or the execution. While Bivol has good wins he doesn’t have great wins and has a tendency to do just enough to win which I was not sure if that approach would work against a crowd favorite like Alvarez. In the end Bivol proved he could beat a great fighter and his approach of calmness in the ring translated to a very smart fight on his part and he executed perfectly. Alvarez has a rematch clause which I find ridiculous given he was the challenger and a challenger having a rematch clause with a defending champion is absurd. Alvarez stated he intends to exercise the clause and get a second go at Bivol. I feel this is a mistake on his part as I don’t believe he can reverse the result in a rematch and he has plenty of money making fights at lower weights. The real loser here is Gennady Golovkin who was going to face Canelo after this fight but now it appears that Golovkin may have to wait a little longer.
Fans online have been very critical of Alvarez following the fight and some are calling him a fraud or exposed and I think this is very wrong. First of all it diminishes Bivol’s fantastic performance by cheapening Canelo. Second, fans for years have moaned about the best not fighting the best and top guys fighting only once or twice a year and Alvarez takes a chance and loses. Should we really dump on a guy for doing what we as fans want boxers to do? He fought four fights in twelve months and moved up to a weight class that he really is too small for. Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather were not fighting four times a year when they were at their biggest. We should be celebrating the quality of the boxing and the matchmaking here.
As for Bivol he really set himself up nicely by going with Matchroom Promotions and getting this fight made. He won without question and in my mind is the clear favorite for a rematch. He is in position to get two wins over Alvarez along with money and notoriety and a chance to then unify titles. Joe Smith Jr and Artur Beterbiev are fighting in June to unify three light heavyweight titles and he can be in position to fight the winner. If it is Smith, he already soundly defeated Smith and would likely do it again. Beterbiev I feel is the favorite over Bivol but he is older and the Smith fight could be a grueling one though I expect him to win that one. The next chapter for both fighters looks to be an interesting one.