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If it were up to the Klitschkos, this is a fight that would not be happening at all. For boxing purists, Canelo’s latest venture at light-heavyweight can be marveled at, not least because all this could yet culminate in a showdown with IBF, WBA and WBO heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk. But to do so, he must first overcome Dmitry Bivol – WBA light-heavyweight champion, one of the outstanding technical fighters of his division and crucially, a Kyrgyzstan-born Russian.
Bivol was born a week before Christmas in 1990, in what is today Tokmok, Kyrgyzstan but was then part of the Soviet Union. Former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko recently told BBC Radio 5 Live that “every Russian representative in this case needs to be sanctioned”, the Ukrainian insisting that it was the only way “we show to Russia that the world is against this senseless war“. When asked if Bivol should be allowed to defend his title against Canelo, he added: “Absolutely not.”
It is imminent nonetheless, and while the other three governing bodies – the WBC, WBO and IBF- will not allow Russians and Belarusian fighters to defend their titles, Bivol, who has publicly called for peace, has been told by the WBA that he cannot display the Russian flag and the country’s national anthem will not be played. He can though still defend his belt with their blessing from him.
As he has been largely confined to the sidelines in fight weeks for the same reasons, Canelo fever has reached new heights. It is the eighth time in his career that the Mexican has fought in the week of Fifth of May (which commemorates the country’s 19th century triumph over the Second French Empire) and he has been victorious every time.
“I like this kind of challenge [fighting at light-heavyweight for just the second time]because I just want to make history” Canelo says.
“This kind of challenge is going to put me at the top in the history of boxing. I feel alive when I have this kind of challenge. I respect the boxing skill of Dmitry Bivol, but it’s my time. I feel in my prime, and I enjoy this kind of moment.”
Canelo felt there was nothing left to achieve at super-middleweight after becoming the first undisputed champion in history in that weight class when he beat Caleb Plant with an 11th-round TKO in November. Ahead of that doubt, the major doubt lingering over the man widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world was whether he could bridge the size gap to Plant.
Canelo’s Cinco de Mayo fights
- May 1, 2010 – Jose Cotto (won by TKO)
- May 5, 2012 – Shane Mosley (won by unanimous decision)
- May 9, 2015 – James Kirkland (won by KO)
- May 7, 2016 – Amir Khan (won by KO)
- May 6, 2017 – Julio Cesar Chavez (won by unanimous decision)
- 4 May 2019 – Daniel Jacobs (won by unanimous decision)
- May 8, 2021 – Billy Joe Saunders (won by eighth-round stoppage)
Bivol, likewise, insists he will not solely be relying on that and hopes his famous jabs can cause problems. There is quite possibly no point in trying to outmuscle Canelo, who is sporting an impressive new physique. And there is no doubt he can perform at 175lbs, knocking out Sergey Kovalev in 2019.
There is a certain logic to arguments that surely, at some point, Canelo will go too far. Bivol does not buy the cloak of invincibility that now encompasses his Saturday night opponent; most are willing to write off the one defeat on Canelo’s record, which came against Floyd Mayweather when the Mexican fighter was just 23 years old. Bivol throws more shots than Canelo and could disarm him in the early rounds as he feels his way into relatively unfamiliar territory.
And on the subject of whether he can break even further ground, promoter Eddie Hearn said he “would a million percent fight at 201lbs”, though he stressed there are no guarantees Canelo would be facing the former cruiserweight world champion Usyk, who still needs to defend his three new heavyweight belts in a rematch with Anthony Joshua.
“Why not?” canelo awning ESPN, when the Usyk question was put to him. “I’ll fight everyone. I don’t f___ing care.”
At the very least, talk of a trilogy finale with Gennady Golovkin has quietened. “GGG” is now 40 and was not convincing in his recent victory over Ryota Murata before eventually winning by TKO in the ninth round.
It is always tempting, though, in this most unpredictable and unprecedented of careers, to wonder what lies ahead for Canelo – but Bivol is worthy of his more immediate attention.
Canelo vs Bivol details
- Date: Saturday 7 May
- Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
- Fight time: Ring walks for the main event are expected around 4am UK time
- TV/live stream: DAZN, with subscriptions from £7.99 a month
- Undercard highlights: Ranked No 9 in the heavyweight division, it would have been fascinating to see Filip Hrgovic defending his undefeated record against Zhilei Zhang, but the Croatian has sadly withdrawn from the card following the recent death of his father. He has been replaced by Scott Alexander, with the Zhang-Hrgovic fight likely to be rescheduled so long as Alexander doesn’t win
- i predictions: Canelo is the overwhelming favourite, though Bivol is the outstanding light-heavyweight right now (well, he was while Canelo was a super-middleweight) and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Bivol may well start strongly in the early rounds, but we’re backing Canelo for a late KO
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- Canelo Alvarez vs. Dmitry Bivol – for WBA (Super) light heavyweight title
- Scott Alexander vs. Zhilei Zhang
- Montana Love vs. Gabriel Gollaz Valenzuela
- Shakhram Giyasov vs. Christian Gomez
- Joselito Velazquez vs Jose Soto
- Alexis Espino vs. Aaron Silva
- Marc Castro vs. Pedro Vicente Scharbaai
- Elnur Abduraimov vs. Manuel Correa
- Fernando Angel Molina vs Ricardo Valdovinos
Any other business
This week, the WBC have been lightly pushing Tyson Fury towards a final decision on retirement either way. Of course, Fury has been vocal in declaring that his recent victory over Dillian Whyte was his final fight, but he will need to vacate the belt if he is to really be believed – and he hasn’t done that yet.
Otto Wallin, who spent that fight week close to the Fury camp, has thrown his hat into contention for a title shot if the belt is soon up for grabs. It is also possible Deontay Wilder, ranked No 2 by the WBC, could have the chance to retain the title he lost to Fury in their second fight.
Katie Taylor has been making her own history stateside, though in New York not Vegas, in the light of her split-decision thriller against Amanda Serrano. It was a fight for the ages at Madison Square Garden and was not only a huge success story for women’s boxing, it was a momentous night for DAZN, who recorded 1.5 million viewers – making it the most watched female headlined boxing broadcast event in history.