LAS VEGAS – As satisfying as it was for Dmitry Bivol to upset Canelo Alvarez on Saturday night, the unbeaten WBA light heavyweight champion doesn’t think he has supplanted Alvarez as the best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the sport.
Alvarez was generally regarded as boxing’s pound-for-pound king before Bivol decisively defeated him in their 12-round, 175-pound championship bout at T-Mobile Arena. Russia’s Bivol is a long-reigning 175-pound champion who hadn’t come close to losing in 19 professional fights, but he hadn’t cracked the top 10 on most mythical pound-for-pound lists.
The 31-year-old Bivol will appear on any credible list after defeating Alvarez by unanimous decision at T-Mobile Arena, but the humble champion kept his huge win in what he considers the proper perspective. Bivol noted during his post-fight press conference that he out-boxed a smaller champion who moved back up seven pounds, from the super middleweight limit of 168 pounds to the 175-pound division, for their DAZN pay-per-view main event.
“To be honest, no,” Bivol replied when he was asked if he took Alvarez’s spot atop the pound-for-pound list. “I just beat a guy who wanted my belt, in my mind, you know, today. And he was a super middleweight. Yes, he had a belt [at] light heavyweight, but I don’t feel myself, that I am the king today. No, I just beat Canelo. I [was] just better than him today.”
Alvarez, also 31, plans to exercise his contractual right to a rematch with Bivol.
First, though, he might move back down to the super middleweight division to finally fight rival Gennadiy Golovkin a third time. Before Bivol complicated his plan, Mexico’s Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) and Kazakhstan’s Golovkin (42-1-1, 36 KOs) tentatively were scheduled to fight for Alvarez’s IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO super middleweight titles September 17 at a venue to be determined.
Bivol, meanwhile, doesn’t even consider himself boxing’s best light heavyweight, let alone its top performer pound-for-pound. He wants to earn that distinction against another Russian, Artur Beterbiev, who is scheduled to face Joe Smith Jr. in a title unification fight June 18 at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater in New York.
The 37-year-old Beterbiev (17-0, 17 KOs), who has long been based in Montreal, and the 32-year-old Smith (28-3, 22 KOs), of Mastic, New York, are set to fight for Beterbiev’s IBF and WBC crowns and Smith’s WBO belt. Bivol, who predicted last week that Beterbiev will win, soundly defeated Smith on points in their 12-round fight for Bivol’s WBA belt in March 2019 at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
Bivol probably will have to beat Alvarez again before he would get an opportunity to box the Beterbiev-Smith winner for the right to become boxing’s first fully unified 175-pound champion of the sport’s four-belt era.
“You know, for me, [it’s] enough that I have a belt,” Bivol said. “I know I am one of the best, even [though] nobody told me this. You know, I don’t feel that I am the best light heavyweight in the division. I don’t feel it because I don’t have all [the] belts. You know, if I have all [the] belts, I will feel, myself, I am the best. But now, I am one of the best.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.