By Keith Idec
Dmitry Bivol views his title defense Saturday night as another step toward becoming a star.
The 27-year-old Bivol is heavily favored to defeat Isaac Chilemba, but a win could lead the WBA light heavyweight champion toward a potentially career-changing title unification fight against Sergey Kovalev.
That also would require Russia’s Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) to successfully defend his WBO 175-pound championship against Colombia’s Eleider Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) in the main event of their HBO “World Championship Boxing” doubleheader from Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City (10 p.m. ET/PT).
“When I got my belt, I make one small step to my dream, to be a big name, to make a big name in boxing,” Bivol said during a press conference Thursday. “Of course I’m not going to give my belt to someone. I’m not giving my belt to Chilemba. I’m going to keep it a long time. I will try to do my best for boxing fans, for people who watch our fight. I hope it will be an enjoyable fight for you.”
It was again difficult for Main Events matchmaker Jolene Mizzone to find an opponent willing to box Bivol for the money available in the opener of this HBO broadcast. In Chilemba, Kyrgyzstan’s Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) will face a 31-year-old South African who is 1-3 in his past four fights.
Chilemba (25-5-2, 10 KOs) bounced back from three straight losses to Alvarez, Kovalev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk by beating Australia’s Blake Caparello (27-3-1, 11 KOs) in his last fight. Chilemba beat Caparello by unanimous decision in their 12-rounder March 16 in Melbourne, Australia.
“I have a world title shot against a tough opponent, Bivol,” Chilemba said. “I really want to thank Bivol and his team for this chance, and Main Events and HBO for this opportunity. I thank God, and I am glad I am here. This time, I’m not going to let this opportunity slip through my hands. I am going to win it. I am going to walk out of the ring on the 4th of August as a winner, as a world champion.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.