By Keith Idec
ATLANTIC CITY – Dmitry Bivol believed entering his light heavyweight title defense Saturday night that he was headed toward a showdown with Sergey Kovalev.
Preliminary negotiations began before Saturday’s HBO doubleheader for Kovalev to battle Bivol in a 175-pound title unification fight December 8. Kyrgyzstan’s Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs) did his part by defeating durable South African Isaac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs) by unanimous decision in the 12-round opener of HBO’s broadcast from Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez ruined Bivol’s plan by knocking out Kovalev in the seventh round of the main event. Russia’s Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) was beating Alvarez on all three scorecards (59-55, 59-55 and 58-56) when Alvarez landed a right hand to the side of Kovalev’s head that knocked Kovalev to the canvas in the seventh round.
Kovalev reached his feet, only to have Alvarez drop him twice more. Referee David Fields stopped their scheduled 12-rounder at 2:45 of the seventh round.
“I’m very disappointed that my countryman lost tonight,” Bivol said through a translator during a post-fight press conference early Sunday morning. “He was a great champion and it’s unfortunate that he lost the title. But I would still want the opportunity of having a unification fight in December, as was discussed. If it’s Alvarez, I would be happy to fight Alvarez.”
The 34-year-old Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) is contractually obligated to give Kovalev a rematch, which could occur immediately if Kovalev chooses to come back sooner rather than later. A December 8 rematch might be too quick of a return for Kovalev, however, following such a brutal knockout defeat.
Alvarez acknowledged earlier in the press conference that he, too, would be willing to box Bivol next. Yvon Michel, Alvarez’s promoter, emphasized that Kovalev’s decision will determine Alvarez’s next opponent and when he’ll return to the ring.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.