2022 Performance Of The Year: Dmitry Bivol

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Posted on 01/01/2023

By: Sean Crose

“It may not go down as an all time great light heavyweight battle,” I wrote after the fight. “This wasn’t Spinks-Qawi, or Greb-Tunney. What it was however was a fight that sent the world of boxing reeling.” Sure enough, WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol had just defeated the great Canelo Alvarez. “Things were not supposed to work out this way of course,” I went on. “Canelo was expected to win a challenging yet manageable bout before moving on to face arch rival Gennady Golovkin in the fall. Expectations die in boxing, however. The entire sport can be an expectation graveyard.”

Mandatory Credit: Melina Pizano/Matchroom.

While Canelo did indeed go on to face and dominate Golovkin in a third fight in September, his spring defeat at the gloved hands of Bivol is still resonating at the dawn of 2023. Although Canelo had been defeated by Floyd Mayweather in 2013 and had received some questionable decision wins against Erislandy Lara and Golovkin respectively, the red haired star looked to be in his absolute prime before heading towards the ring to answer the bell against Bivol that Las Vegas night last May. He had previously crushed Caleb Plan and before that Billy Joe Saunders. Good competition would come Canelo’s way, and that competition would fall. That was not, however, to be the case with Bivol.

While it’s true that Bivol entered the fight the naturally bigger man it was also true that the 19-0 Russian had a simple yet brilliant plan with which to deal with the ambitious Canelo. For starters, Bivol put a strong jab to use, effectively keeping Canelo from getting in range. Bivol also tossed off stinging combinations, making it seem at times as if Canelo might actually be hurt (something fans had never seen). Equally telling was the fact that Canelo simply couldn’t break his man down as he generally did against opponents. Ultimately, Bivol was too big, too strong, too sharp, and had too good a plan to allow the legendary Canelo to get the best of him.

While the 57-1-2 Canelo was known to be a judge’s darling, he couldn’t convince the judges that evening that he had defeated or even drawn with Bivol. The defending titlist walked out of the ring that night with the WBA title still in his possession. And Canelo? Well, it’s hard to fault a man for failing at an ambitious quest from which he clearly gave his all. Other fighters should be more like him.

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