Momentum is a funny thing.
Saul Alvarez has it. One can look at his lack of losses since the Floyd Mayweather fight and see his position in 2022 as a result of a constant. It’s not. There's been a different level to Alvarez since the rematch victory over Gennady Golovkin. Caleb Plant, Sergey Kovalev, and Daniel Jacobs gave him good fights but there hasn’t been anyone since that rematch that felt like they were going to beat him.
Alvarez might be facing the man with the best shot at it since Golovkin in 2018 (DAZN PPV, 8 PM EST).
Dmitry Bivol had momentum. Though he’s never been what one would call a thriller, Bivol was building a nice resume. In the dying days of HBO Boxing, he was one of the young guys they were putting some heat behind, culminating in a one-sided victory over former champion Jean Pascal. The string of good outings continued into the early days of DAZN with a one-sided rout of current, then future, titlist Joe Smith Jr.
Bivol hasn’t looked much different since. The quality of competition has. Taking all of 2020 off, Bivol has fought only three times since the win over Smith in March 2019. They were fights he could have won in his sleep and Bivol went about his work. The Craig Richards fight was closer on the cards then it was in the ring. It’s been easy to forget Bivol is out there, still no worse than second best at light heavyweight.
Saturday, in an excellent contest on paper, momentum could swing wildly.
Let’s get into it.
Stats and Stakes
Titles: WBA Light Heavyweight (2017-Present, 8 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 174 ½ lbs.
Hails from: Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan
Record: 19-0, 11 KO
Press Rankings: #1 (TBRB), #2 (Ring, ESPN), #3 (BoxRec)
Record in Major Title Fights: 8-0, 3 KO (11-0, 4 KO including interim title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 119-11-3 (.906)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Sullivan Barrera TKO12; Joe Smith Jr. UD12
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Jean Pascal UD12
Titles: Ring/WBC/WBA Super Middleweight (2020-Present, 2 Defenses); WBO Super Middleweight (2021-Present, 1 Defense); Lineal/TBRB/IBF Super Middleweight (2021-Present, 0 Defenses)
Previous Titles: WBC Super Welterweight (2011-13, 6 Defenses); Ring Jr. Middleweight (2013); WBC Middleweight (2015-16, 1 Defense); TBRB Middleweight (2015-17); WBO Jr. Middleweight (2016-17); Ring World Middleweight (2015-18, 2 Defenses); IBF Middleweight (2019); Lineal World Middleweight (2015-20, 4 Defenses); TBRB/Ring/WBC/WBA Middleweight (2018-Present, 1 Defense)
Weight: 174 ¼ lbs.
Hails from: Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico
Record: 57-1-2, 39 KO
Record in Major Title Fights: 17-1-1, 10 KO (18-1-1, 11 KO including WBA sub-title fights)
Last Five Opponents: 133-5-1 (.960)
Notable Outcomes, TBRB and/or Ring Rated Foes: Ryan Rhodes TKO12; Josesito Lopez TKO5; Austin Trout UD12; Floyd Mayweather Jr. L12; Erislandy Lara SD12; Miguel Cotto UD12; Amir Khan KO6; Liam Smith KO9; Gennady Golovkin D12, MD12; Rocky Fielding TKO3; Daniel Jacobs UD12; Sergey Kovalev KO11; Callum Smith UD12; Billy Joe Saunders RTD8; Caleb Plant TKO11
Additional Current/Former Titlists Faced: Miguel Vazquez SD4, UD10; Carlos Baldomir KO6; Lovemore N’Dou UD12; Kermit Cintron TKO5; Shane Mosley UD12; Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. UD12
The Pick: Bivol maintains the standard of opposition we’ve come to expect from Alvarez. It’s his fourth undefeated opponent in five starts and eighth opponent ranked in the top ten by TBRB or Ring in Alvarez’s last nine starts. Competing for the second time in his fourth weight class, Alvarez gives up several inches in height, a little bit of reach, but counters with a whole lot more experience.
Alvarez also has more variety in his game, mixing in a heavy-handed body attack with deft counter punching, excellent head movement, and smart feet. If he can get to the ribs early, a Bivol who uses his legs a lot could find a long road in the second half of the fight.
Alvarez has to get to his body first.
Bivol also has good feet, quick hands, and a really good jab. Bivol isn’t flashy but his fundamentals are excellent. He throws a textbook 1-2 and has an underrated left hook. Bivol isn’t a consistent body puncher, but he has a long right to the body he can employ and one he used well against Sullivan Barrera.
This could end up looking a little like Alvarez’s fight against Erislandy Lara with both men thinking in spots where fans might want to see them throwing. Bivol is bigger than Lara and should be more active than the Cuban was that night and if he can get into his in and out rhythm the chance is there to give Alvarez fits.
Alvarez though is in a groove that makes it hard to pick against him until we see him lose again. It’s hard to shake the idea that Bivol has to win more than seven rounds to win this fight too. This could be one folks are arguing about when it’s over but the smart pick is Alvarez by decision.
Rold Picks 2022: 19-5
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. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org