By Jake Donovan
Dmitry Bivol has checked several boxes off his wish list barely four years into his pro career, one in which he’s rapidly emerged as among the best light heavyweights in the world.
Next on his list is a 2019 campaign that sees him separate from the rest of the pack.
“My career is going according to plan so far,” Bivol (15-0, 11KOs) insisted to BoxingScene.com ahead of his March 9 title defense versus Joe Smith Jr. “The goal for (2019) is to convince the boxing world that I am the best light heavyweight in the world.”
His battle versus Smith Jr. (24-2, 20KOs) will stream live on DAZN from Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York, marking his debut on the sports streaming service. By the time he enters the ring, the bout will mark his eighth in which some version of a light heavyweight title has been at stake.
Bivol won the WBA “interim” 175-pound title in just his 7th pro fight, a May ’16 unanimous decision over then-unbeaten Felix Valera.
Two successful defenses of the interim version followed before receiving an upgrade to “Regular” titlist beginning with his 1st round knockout of Trent Broadhurst in Nov. ’17. The bout marked his debut on American cable giant HBO, which for decades had served as the boxing industry leader.
The premium cable network would remain in the Bivol business until its better end, with the now 28-year old from Russia by way of Kyrgyzstan headlining the final-ever edition of HBO’s long-running World Championship Boxing series last November. The event was originally slated for Bivol to face Smith Jr., who bailed on the fight when his team was led to believe a bigger opportunity awaited in a crack at unbeaten titlist Artur Beterbiev.
It never happened, while Bivol’s fourth and final fight on HBO instead came in a 12-round whitewash of faded former World light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal.
Now begins a new adventure on DAZN, with whom he signed earlier this year through high-powered manager Vadim Kornilov.
“Everything we’ve sought out to do so far has happened,” Bivol notes. “I planned to win my first title inside of my first 10 fights, we did that. I always wanted to fight on HBO, we got to do that four times before they went off air.
“Now I get to debut on DAZN. It’s a new adventure for all of us. I’m very excited for my first fight and to defend my title versus Joe Smith Jr., which I plan to make the first of a very big year for my career.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox