Recap: Bivol shocks Canelo, wins clear decision to retain title

Dmitry Bivol scored his biggest win by far, upsetting Canelo Alvarez | Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

Dmitry Bivol is still unbeaten and still the WBA light heavyweight titleholder after a stunning win over Canelo Alvarez.

Dmitry Bivol didn’t leave room for doubt, clearly beating Canelo Alvarez over 12 rounds tonight in Las Vegas, but since it’s boxing, a lot of breath was being held until ring announcer David Diamante made the official announcement.

When he did, it was confirmed — though by closer scores than many felt was the reality of the fight.

All three judges scored the fight 115-113 for Bivol, the closest it could be without the fight going down as a draw, which would have caused massive and rightful outrage among boxing fans the world over.

Bivol (20-0, 11 KO) won this fight without question. It was a reminder that no matter how great a fighter, weight classes exist for a reason, and that if you take risks and fight top fighters consistently, yes, even the best can lose, even if the odds seem fully stacked in their favor as a superstar draw for a sport that has precious few of those.

Canelo (57-2-2, 39 KO) never looked fully comfortable in this fight. He didn’t have his usual slow start, which he’d noted pre-fight he was going to try to avoid in this matchup. Both fighters had shown one another nothing but true respect during fight week, and Canelo and promoter Eddie Hearn had both warned a skeptical public that Dmitry Bivol was a sincere threat, and not a fighter to take lightly at all.

We quickly found out why. Bivol was not only able to box technically with Canelo, which few in recent years have been able to do for any amount of time, but he just wasn’t backed up by him, or ever overwhelmed by his power.

In short, Bivol took away the constant appearance of control and confidence that Canelo has been so great at showing, even in competitive fights. Canelo here was visibly frustrated at times, couldn’t seem to hurt Bivol to the degree he needed to back him up or give Canelo the chance to take control.

More than any fight since his two bouts with Gennadiy Golovkin in 2017-18, Canelo was made to look uncomfortable and ill at ease. Bivol hurt him with shots. It was obvious quickly that Bivol had the ability to back Canelo down, which is also rare.

Bivol wound up the wrong choice if Canelo wanted an easy win, but the right choice if Canelo does indeed crave being challenged, as he often says, because he sure as hell got being and then some tonight.

“I’m sorry I broke your plans with Gennadiy Golovkin, maybe,” Bivol said toward promoter Eddie Hearn, before expressing his respect for Canelo, which he’d made clear in the build-up to the fight, too.

“I felt his power. You can see on my arm, he beat my arm up, but not my head,” he said. “He has good speed, good power. Maybe his mistake is he only threw hard punches. He got tired.”

Bivol admitted he got hurt on the arm, which was definitely welted up, a familiar tactic Canelo has used. “I expected that, I watched his fight against Callum Smith. I accept that. It’s better than my head,” Bivol added.

“I have to accept it. He’s a great champion. Sometimes you win and lose. I’m not going to make excuses, I lost today and he won,” Canelo said via an interpreter. “He’s a really good fighter. He comes in and goes out. I also felt his power. But I think it was a good fight and it was a good victory for him.”

Asked if he felt the 175 lb weight was too much, Canelo replied, “No, no. I did feel his power, but no excuses. You win or lose. That’s sport, and that’s what happened.”

Canelo then confirmed that he wants to exercise his rematch clause. We’ll see if that happens in September, which would replace Canelo’s rubber match with Gennadiy Golovkin, possibly, or if Canelo will do the GGG trilogy fight and maybe rematch Bivol in 2023 or late in 2022.

“No problem,” Bivol said in reply about the rematch. “I’m ready for the rematch, I just want to make sure I can be treated like the champion now.”

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