Dmitry Bivol admits that he was caught off guard by the news of his next confirmed title defense.

The unbeaten WBA light heavyweight titlist will next face mandatory challenger and former WBO super middleweight titlist Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez (44-0, 30KOs). The bout is set to headline a November 5 DAZN show from Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The date and location were both already on Bivol’s radar—just not the opponent. He was led to believe that England’s Joshua Buatsi was next in queue and initially unsure of what to make of the news that the WBA ordered him to instead face Ramirez—ironically, a fight he’s wanted years before it has finally come to fruition.

“I wanted the fight with Buatsi because the fight was offered to me,” Bivol admitted to “We had a date, we had an opponent and we had a (location). So, course we wanted to fight Buatsi.

“Of course, things change and I was a little bit confused when this fight will be or where. Now, I’m glad that things happened like this.”

Bivol (20-0, 11KOs) has held the WBA belt since November 2017 but finally enjoyed a breakthrough performance in his last outing. The unbeaten 31-year-old outpointed pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on May 7 to successfully defend his title, all but guaranteeing a massive payday for his next outing.

It was initially proposed by co-promoter Matchroom Boxing that Bivol would next face Buatsi (16-0, 13KOs), a 2016 Olympic Bronze medalist and top-rated light heavyweight contender.

Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn even petitioned the WBA to allow a Bivol-Buatsi fight in lieu of an ordered mandatory title defense against Ramirez, the unbeaten southpaw from Mazatlan, Mexico who’d already won two separate title eliminators by that point. The sanctioning body rejected the petition, instead calling for an August 21 purse bid hearing. Hearn contacted Golden Boy Promotions’ Eric Gomez soon thereafter, with the two reaching a deal in time to avoid going the purse bid route.

It was all fine with Bivol, who is just happy to ride his current momentum wave. Even better, he now gets to check off a bucket list item.

“I wanted to fight Zurdo many, many years ago,” insisted Bivol. “Every fight, I would think, ‘Maybe my next opponent will be Zurdo.’ He talks about our fight, he’s a good opponent. I want to fight against an opponent like Zurdo. He had 44 wins and no defeats. He’s very good.”

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox