Not everyone was shocked when Canelo Alvarez was upset on the scorecards by Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas last weekend.
In May 2021, in Manchester, Bivol won a close decision over London’s Craig Richards by scores of 118-110, 115-114 and 115-113 and the day before Bivol handed Canelo just the second loss of his decorated career, Richards felt his old opponent could do it.
“I said the day before he [Bivol]’s got very fast feet, very fast hands and very good defence and I said if it goes to points I’d expect Bivol to get the nod,” Richards said. “Though, being in Vegas and Cinco de Mayo, if it does go to points it depends if the judges give it to him. Because Bivol’s hands are rapid and his defence is very tight and he’s got very good feet.”
A week on and it all makes sense. Bivol beat Canelo by three cards of 115-113 when many believe the margins should have been wider and Richards saw what he thought he was going to see.
“Exactly that,” the 32-year-old contender went on. “His [Canelo’s] feet weren’t quick enough, he was loading up shots, Bivol was throwing combinations and when he was trying to land and couldn’t get through the defence, he just got frustrated and to the point that he got disheartened.”
Richards didn’t stay in touch with Bivol after their fight but he liked him. They spoke afterwards, got along well during the build-up, exchanged tops in the aftermath and Criag was happy to see him beat Canelo, but that doesn’t mean he won’t fight him once more.
“When we cross paths again, it’s not personal, I have to beat him, but first and foremost let’s just focus on May 21st,” added ‘The Spider’, who is in action against Joshua Buatsi next week.
Of his success against Bivol, Richards recalled: “I neutralized him because I’ve got good feet and a good jab as well,” Richards continued. “So I neutralized a lot of his best assets and I think that’s why people were like, ‘Oh, he’s not that good’ and not that I took away a lot of his assets. Canelo is good at closing the ring down but he hasn’t got fast feet and that’s what I thought he might struggle with, the fast feet and the combination punching.”
Richards was right. And while Bivol’s stock rose emphatically last week, so too did Richards’s. That is not lost on Craig, even though he has other things on his mind now.
“Of course, that’s what I mean,” he said, referring to next week’s huge clash of British light-heavyweights at London’s O2 Arena against Buatsi. “My stock won’t stay there if I don’t beat Josh on May 21st, so I’ve got to make sure next week I get the job done to make sure my stock rises even more.”
Richards is now 17-2-1 (10) and he’s more than ready for Buatsi.
“I know I can swim in the deep waters, but I’m never overconfident in boxing,” Richards said. “Boxing is the sort of situation where you’ve got to learn all the time. I’m doing that and I’m a student of the game and I think that’s why I get better, I’m never complacent. Sometimes my trainer says to me I just need to relax because I’m a perfectionist and I want to get things right all the time but I think that’s what brings me on all the time. I’m never overconfident. I always know I’ve got things to learn and I think that’s why I’m always going to progress until the day I hang my gloves up.”
There are plenty who are now tipping Richards to stun Buatsi, 15-0, next week, including another British 175lbs star Anthony Yarde.
But regardless of who thinks Richards might be victorious, he now feels he should be at boxing’s top table.
When he watched Bivol fighting and beating Canelo in Vegas, he knew he belonged and a big domestic win would be great, but he has aspirations on the world scene, too.
Did it give him more belief watching his old foe box Canelo on the sport’s biggest stage?
“Yeah, it’s good because it shows that you’re in touching distance,” Richards concluded. “Obviously May 21st first, that’s my focus of course, but it gives you a glimpse at the sort of level that we’re boxing at.”