Dmitry Bivol looked like he might be on his way to being the best light heavyweight in the world after a string of victories that included Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr.
For three years and just three fights, Bivol was all but stuck in the wilderness. He got called in from the cold for the biggest opportunity boxing could provide and made the most of it.
Bivol didn’t just beat Saul Alvarez on Saturday. He also beat an establishment that seemingly goes out of its way to find rounds for Alvarez. Alvarez was outpunched in every round. Alvarez was outlanded in every round.
Alvarez only lost seven rounds to five, across the board.
Bivol was too good to screw. He probably won at least ten rounds. That was enough for seven officially.
Bivol will take it. All that’s really left is a chance to prove he is the very best light heavyweight in the world. More on that shortly.
Alvarez, who couldn’t break the defense of Bivol, was up a weight class and size was certainly part of the equation. He was getting touched by a light heavyweight. The bigger issue was we saw again there is a style Alvarez doesn’t handle well.
Floyd Mayweather, Erislandy Lara, and now Bivol have befuddled Alvarez with movement, a jab, accuracy and speed. Lara didn’t bring enough offense to get the decision. Scorecard controversies weren’t enough to stop Mayweather and Bivol. For all the discussion of how much Alvarez has evolved, it appears at this point that, like has been the case for many a top fighter, there are some styles he’s just never going to solve.
It’s not clear anyone else is going to solve Bivol soon either.
For fans of Alvarez, this will put some perspective on the arguments for Alvarez as the mythical pound-for-pound leader. Prior to Alvarez’s win over Golovkin, he wasn’t really in that race. Over the last few years, there were other fighters who many saw as more talented but none was doing as much good work, as often, as Alvarez.
Resume versus talent is always a good debate. Saturday exposed some of the limits of Alvarez’s talent. Will fighters like Oleksandr Usyk, Naoyoa Inoue, Terrence Crawford, and Errol Spence, all of whom have scheduled, or are coming off, serious fights in their class make their case now as the sport’s in-ring leader sans scale?
It will be interesting on that front.
Futures: While Alvarez said he wants the rematch, it might not be advisable. Bivol didn’t flinch at the moment and he’ll be more comfortable a second time around. Alvarez was beaten in almost every facet. Bivol took away his body attack, touched him up, and had Alvarez visibly frustrated from early on. It was a thorough outboxing and there are better style matches in the lower weight classes Alvarez is more natural to.
Alvarez’s gutsiest option would be seeing Bivol again. The smartest would be keeping the plan to see Gennadiy Golovkin for a third time and exploring whatever free agency comes up in 2023.
Bivol restated his case that he might be the best light heavyweight in the world. The top three in the class include lineal king Artur Beterbiev and titlist Joe Smith Jr. Bivol already has a near shutout of Smith. Beterbiev-Smith is coming.
In a period of unification fever, what should be next is obvious.
Bivol-Smith II isn’t a fight that would jump out as a must if Smith wins. If Beterbiev wins, it should be everyone’s must. It would have matured as a generational fight at light heavyweight. It adds something extra to Beterbiev-Smith, a fight that is already a thriller on paper.
This is where the hype should be after Saturday.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.