Dmitri Bivol—six months removed from a convincing win over Canelo Alvarez—arrived at a press conference this week looking a lot like Dmitri Bivol…six days before shared the ring with Alvarez. He was wearing dark pants and a loose white shirt. He smiled ruefully when asked about his recent success. He praised his next opponent, Gilberto Ramirez, while fending off attempts to bait him into criticism.
“I have a lot of respect [Ramirez]Bivol said. “Boxing is a gentleman’s sport. I like it when people respect each other. I don’t want attention for trash. I want attention in the ring.”
Bivol-Ramirez is a good fight. ONE large fight. Bivol, who is fighting for the first time since Alvarez was knocked out, will defend his title at 175 kg. Ramirez, a former 168-pound champion, is undefeated, including a 5-0 streak (with five knockouts) at light heavyweight. Bivol is the superior boxer. Ramirez, who will likely outweigh Bivol by more than 20 pounds on Saturday, is the bigger man. Bivol will try to win with movement and accurate punches. Ramirez’s strategy is to cut off the ring and pile Bivol on the turns.
“He’s a good fighter,” Bivol said. “He doesn’t know what it means to lose.”
The 2022 boxing calendar has been largely forgotten. The fighters — mostly on the men’s side — spent more time fighting on social media than in the ring. Exciting matches are rare. Most fighters are willing to turn the calendar to ’23.
No Bivol. This year was decisive. A long-time title holder, Bivol gained widespread recognition after defeating Álvarez, then the king of pound-for-pound boxing. “I get more respect from people,” Bivol said. He ranked in the top 10 in most pound-for-pound rankings. A win over Ramirez on Saturday will not only retain his title, but likely cement him as Fighter of the Year.
Bivol said Alvarez’s win didn’t change him.
“Inside, I’m trying to be the same person,” Bivol said. “I try to feel the same emotions. Angry [and] hungry.” Members of his team, including his trainer Joel Diaz, say they’ve seen a more confident fighter. Bivol disagrees.
“My confidence doesn’t depend on my last win,” Bivol said. “My confidence depends on my training. If I did everything my coach said in my training camp, I feel confident. If your camp was good, you will show your skills.”
Bivol spoke inside a gaming center on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. (The Middle East has become a preferred destination for major fights.) Anthony Joshua has fought twice in Saudi Arabia. Tyson Fury’s representatives are eyeing the Saudi for Fury’s scheduled fight with Oleksandr Usyk next year. In announcing Bivol-Ramirez, Eddie Hearn, Bivol’s promoter, emphasized that this fight was the first in a Champion Series that would see more fights brought to the area. Said Hearn, “This is the beginning of a new world of boxing in the Middle East.”
This suits Bivol. He has been in Abu Dhabi since the end of September. “Weather, people, atmosphere,” Bivol said, noting the things he liked. “I see how people love sports here. I love it. I hope people here will love boxing. Maybe it will become the main sport.”
He’s baffled by those who wonder if he has the same hunger he once had (“It’s like water to my fire,” he said) and vows that the best years of his career are yet to come.
And he will have options. Álvarez said he wants a rematch with Bivol, perhaps next May. This is a fight that could win Bivol over $10 million. Bivol, however, has his eyes on a different prize: Artur Beterbiev, the unified lightweight champion. Beterbiev, Bivol said, is the priority. Canelo can wait.
“I have a dream,” Bivol said in an interview with Fight Hub TV. “I want to advance my career. I want to fight for other belts. How it will be, I don’t know. Canelo, to me, is in the past. In the future we could earn money [together]. But I want to make history. If I have more belts, why not have a rematch with Canelo in the future? My priority is to be undisputed. I don’t have much time in my career. I want to go as far as I can.”
And the money?
“The money is good,” Bivol said. “Legacy is better. I love money. Everyone loves money. It’s not the main thing I think about. I want to make history. If I thought about money, I would never be here.”
In Ramirez, Bivol awaits a major challenge. There’s a familiarity there — Bivol and Ramirez are former sparring partners — and, if you dig deep, some don’t like you. In the weeks before the fight was finalized, Bivol told his team: “Give me this fight.” Bivol has been irritated by Ramirez’s constant public booing and was annoyed by Ramirez’s suggestion that he was running from the fight. That Ramirez was so confident during game week didn’t go unnoticed.
“I don’t know why he’s so confident,” Bivol said. “For me it doesn’t matter. Maybe because he never lost. Maybe he needs attention. Does not make sense. But it’s all about fighting. It’s all about what he does in the ring.”
Actually. Bivol only wants to be judged by what he does in the ring. And what he has done has been impressive. He has toppled Canelo and is now targeting Ramirez on another big stage. After years of boxing in relative anonymity, Dmitry Bivol has arrived.
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