Michel Rivera is eager to prove that he doesn’t just bear a resemblance to ‘The Greatest’ but can ultimately emulate his career.
The insistence of measuring up to the late, legendary Muhammad Ali is a tall order for anyone in history, though Rivera insists to be down for the cause. The 23-year-old Miami-based Dominican lightweight picked up his most significant win to date, rising from a sixth-round knockdown to knock out Spain’s Jon Fernandez early in the eighth-round of their WBA lightweight title eliminator on July 3rd at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, California.
The win positions Rivera (21-0, 14KOs) for a title shot, which he views as the first step towards proving his dominance at lightweight. He already has just the opponents in mind.
“I can fight with Ryan Garcia, I can fight with Teofimo Lopez, and I’m not joking,” Rivera insisted of the chance to beat either of his fellow young guns in the division. “I know that I can fight with any of the top five in the lightweight division. I live in the gym and I have made the sacrifices to be great and I have a great team behind me.”
Brooklyn’s Lopez (16-0, 12KOs)—lineal/WBA “Super”/IBF/WBA lightweight champ—is currently recovering from COVID and still on the hook for a title defense versus mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 10KOs). Garcia (21-0, 18KOs) has not fought since an off-the-canvas, seventh-round knockout of England’s Luke Campbell this past January in Dallas, Texas.
A fight with either would be a dream scenario for any young contender on the rise. The division also boasts WBC lightweight titlist Devin Haney (26-0, 15KOs), who is fresh off of a twelve-round, unanimous decision victory over former three-division titlist Jorge Linares this past May at Michelob ULTRA Arena in Las Vegas.
Any of the three will do just fine for Rivera, who doesn’t plan on moving backwards in his career.
“I want to fight for the world title,” demands Rivera. “I know that I can be the reincarnation of Muhammad Ali. Everyone saw (in this fight) that I have the talent at 135. I have the power and the skills to get into position to get the belts. You have to work like a champion to be a champion. That’s what I do every day. “
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox