By Keith Idec
Dmitry Bivol’s DAZN debut has been scheduled for March 9.
Multiple sources have informed BoxingScene.com that Bivol will defend his WBA light heavyweight title that night against Joe Smith Jr. Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, is among the sites under consideration for that card, but the venue hadn’t been finalized as of Tuesday afternoon.
Bivol’s title defense versus Smith will mark the first fight of the Russian champion’s multi-fight agreement with DAZN, a deal first reported by RingTV.com on Monday.
Bivol’s past five fights have been broadcast by HBO or HBO Pay-Per-View. His manager, Vadim Kornilov, began seeking a new television/streaming home for Bivol late last year because HBO no longer broadcasts boxing.
DAZN offered Bivol a sizeable sum of money for the rights to stream his fights, but Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) could have difficulty securing top opponents at light heavyweight if he defeats the hard-hitting Smith (24-2, 20 KOs). All of the other light heavyweight champions – Eleider Alvarez (WBO), Artur Beterbiev (IBF) and Oleksandr Gvozdyk (WBC) – are affiliated with ESPN through that network’s partnership with promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank Inc.
Bivol, who’s considered a small light heavyweight, did discuss moving down to super middleweight after defeating former WBC 175-pound champ Jean Pascal (33-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC) on November 24 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. If the 28-year-old Bivol were to move down to 168 pounds, he could face England’s Callum Smith (25-0, 18 KOs), the WBA’s “super world” super middleweight champion, or even Canelo Alvarez (51-1-2, 35 KOs), if the Mexican superstar opts to continue competing at 168 pounds.
Joe Smith Jr., meanwhile, will get the title shot he thought he’d receive November 24. Negotiations were ongoing between Main Events’ Kathy Duva, who was working on Bivol’s behalf at that time, and Joe DeGuardia, Smith’s promoter, to fight that night, before HBO announced late in September that it would stop airing live boxing.
HBO’s unstable situation caused DeGuardia to pursue another title shot for Smith, a fight against Russia’s Beterbiev (13-0, 13 KOs). That fight fell apart once Yvon Michel, Beterbiev’s promoter, was able to secure a deal for him with Top Rank/ESPN.
The DAZN card headlined by Bivol-Smith will go head-to-head with a FOX telecast March 9. FOX’s show will feature WBC welterweight champ Shawn Porter (29-2-1, 17 KOs) and mandatory challenger Yordenis Ugas (23-3, 11 KOs) in the main event from MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.