By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – At least part of Dmitry Bivol believes Sullivan Barrera considers him an easier opponent than Sergey Kovalev.
Otherwise, Bivol figures Barrera would’ve challenged Kovalev on Saturday night, not him, especially since Barrera was offered more money to fight Kovalev. Regardless, Bivol is certain Barrera has made a mistake by agreeing to their 12-round fight for Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title (HBO; 10:05 p.m. ET).
“He might think that I’m young and an easy fighter, but he’s got another thing coming,” Bivol said before a press conference Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. “I don’t why he said yes. I don’t know what’s going on in his head. … Maybe he thought it would be easier to just go through me. But I’m not thinking about that.”
The 27-year-old Bivol is thinking more about beating Barrera convincingly in what is considered the most challenging fight of his three-year, 12-bout pro career.
There is considerable buzz about Bivol in boxing circles, but Barrera, the mandatory challenger for his title, can box and punch. Barrera, 36, also has faced a better level of opposition, most notably former pound-for-pound king Andre Ward, the only opponent to beat Barrera.
“It’s a great fight for my career,” Bivol said. “It’s also a test for me, to see how I fare against a great opponent, like Barrera. But lots of people will come out and lots of people will notice me, and understand what kind of fighter I am.”
Merely beating Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) isn’t the only thing that’s important to Kyrgyzstan’s Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs), who’s listed as a 7-1 favorite to win their fight in The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The St. Petersburg, Russia, resident realizes it’s imperative to satisfy fans and generate momentum toward bigger bouts, perhaps a title unification fight against Kovalev.
Immediately following Bivol-Barrera, Russia’s Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs) will defend his WBO light heavyweight title in the main event against former amateur teammate Igor Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs).
“Of course, before every fight I wanna be the best in the fight,” Bivol said. “I want to make a good show for fans. [It’s important] that fans think about me, ‘I wanna see him again. That was a great fight.’ It’s most important to me to look good in the ring.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.