A critical look at the past week in boxing
No one should be stunned.
Light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol had a natural size advantage over super middleweight champ Canelo Alvarez in their fight Saturday in Las Vegas, which Bivol won by a unanimous decision.
However, that edge would’ve amounted to nothing if he didn’t have unusual ability to go along with his bulk. And the Russian has demonstrated that he has plenty of that commodity throughout his amateur and professional careers, in which he has dominated even elite opponents.
Of course, the consensus pound-for-pound king posed a bigger challenge than any of Bivol’s previous opponents because of his own proven ability and experience in big fights. In the end, however, Alvarez was merely a small light heavyweight facing a natural 175-pounder with a comparable level of ability.
Bivol was brilliant, calmly, coolly controlling distance with his jab and quick, hard combinations, and maintaining a tight guard that Alvarez couldn’t penetrate. By mid-fight, the Mexican star was frustrated, tired and out of options.
No one – not even Gennadiy Golovkin – had been able to do that to the Mexican star since Floyd Mayweather in 2013. And Bivol turned the trick with Alvarez in his prime.
That wasn’t lost on the gracious loser, who said repeatedly before and then after the fight that Bivol is an excellent boxer. As Eddy Reynoso, Alvarez’s trainer, said afterward, “I said before the fight that it’d be a tough fight because he uses distance really well.”
We’ll see where the upset leads Bivol.
We could see a rematch, although Alvarez wouldn’t commit to that in the post-fight news conference because of the size difference. Bivol said he’d like to face the winner of the upcoming 175-pound title-unification bout between Artur Beterbiev and Joe Smith Jr. for the undisputed championship.
Only one thing is certain at the moment: Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) will never be seen the same. No matter what happens going forward, he will always be the conqueror of the great Canelo.
The scoring of the Alvarez-Bivol fight – 115-113 across the board – makes it appear as if the fight was close. It wasn’t.
Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) was fixated on throwing single power shots and the vast majority of them didn’t land to the head or body. According to CompuBox, he connected on only 84 total punches – 7 per round – in the fight (compared to 152 for Bivol).
That’s a career low for him in a 12-round bout. His next lowest? 117 in his one-sided loss to Mayweather.
All three judges gave the first four rounds to Alvarez, meaning he won only one of the last eight rounds on all three cards. That level of futility was inconceivable given the consensus pound-for-pound king’s dominance in recent years.
Thus, one of the most dominating fighters of his generation was dominated.
What are we to make of this?
Moving up in weight to face a fighter of Bivol’s ability was a dangerous move that backfired. As they say, a good big man beats a good little man. The natural size advantage probably made it easier for Bivol to absorb punches. And the extra weight might’ve played a role in wearing Alvarez down.
This wasn’t solely about size, however, Bivol was better than Alvarez, who outboxed, outworked and ultimately outclassed him.
Of course, one setback doesn’t define Alvarez, who has accomplished so much over the past decade. In this case, he took a big swing and missed. He should be applauded for testing himself when so many fighters seem to avoid genuine challenges. And, as he said, losing is a part of boxing.
At the same time, Alvarez won’t be seen quite the same either. He had taken on an aura of invincibility, the product of a 15-0-1 record in his previous 16 fights against almost exclusively top-flight opposition.
Bivol shattered that notion with his convincing victory, which demonstrated that a particularly good boxer with physical strength comparable to Alvarez’s can beat him.
Suddenly, the chances of David Benavidez, Jermall Charlo and Demetrius Andrade defeating Alvarez seem much less remote.
The judges narrowly avoided a regrettable decision.
All three of them gave the 12th and final round to Bivol, which proved to be decisive. Had two or three of them given the frame to Alvarez, the fight would’ve ended in a draw that would’ve been skewered by anyone who watched the fight with their eyes open.
I scored it 117-111 for Bivol, nine rounds to three. I gave Alvarez two of first four rounds and one of the last eight. I could see 116-112, eight rounds to four. 115-113? No. That doesn’t reflect what happened in the ring.
Once again, CompuBox numbers are far from definitive. However, sometimes they help to tell the story, which is the case here. Bivol landed in double digits in every round, Alvarez in two.
Indeed, Bivol was as good as billed defensively. Alvarez admitted afterward that his opponent “is very difficult to hit around the head area.”
So how did the judges find five rounds to give Alvarez?
The first four rounds were competitive. Alvarez would’ve needed the benefit of every doubt to win all four, which wasn’t reasonable. Bivol boxed too well early in the fight to be shut out.
At least the judges – Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld – got the latter eight rounds right. More important, the right man had his hand raised in the end.
That’s what people will remember.
Alvarez was classy in defeat, repeatedly giving Bivol credit for his victory and offering no excuses. He said he believes he did enough to win the fight but not with great conviction. And he indicating that Bivol’s size advantage might’ve played a role only when a reporter asked him about that. Kudos to him for the manner in which he handled himself. … If I had to guess, I’d say Alvarez will fight Golovkin a third time in September instead of a second fight with Bivol because of his size disadvantage. He’d fight Triple-G at 168 pounds. And Bivol probably will pursue a fight with the winner of the Beterbiev-Smith fight, which Beterbiev is favored to win. Bivol vs. Alvarez II could happen later on. … Alvarez had expressed interest in fighting smallish heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk if Usyk would agree to a catch weight of 201 pounds. That notion seems absurd given what we witnessed on Saturday. Clearly, it’s possible to think too big. Roy Jones Jr. moved up from light heavyweight to outpoint heavyweight titleholder John Ruiz but Alvarez is no Jones and Ruiz was no Usyk.
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