WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol praised challenger Malik Zinad for accepting a late-notice call to face him on Saturday.

Zinad stepped in after original opponent Artur Beterbiev injured his knee and forced the postponement of his highly anticipated 175-pound unification fight with Bivol.

Both fighters are 22-0, but Bivol is recognized as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. 

“Thank you to Malik Zinad because just one month [ago] they took this fight,” said Bivol. “Malik is not an easy guy, how people think. He’s hungry. He believes in himself, and it makes me more excited to fight him. He’s confident, he’s never lost, and it makes me more excited again.”

Zinad, the 30-year-old challenger, has stopped 16 of his 22 victims, but the 33-year-old Bivol is at the top of his game. Zinad is hoping to slam the brakes on any progress being made towards Bivol and Beterbiev finally happening.

“This is a dream come true,” said Zinad, a Malta-based Libyan. “I’ve dreamed for this moment since I was 10 years old. First of June, I’m ready to fight, so I will be a surprise on the first of June.”

On his social media, Zinad promised he would cause “an earthquake” in the division.

“I fight really hard. Every time I fight, I fight for blood. I don’t play in there,” he added. “Me and him, I’m going in there to fight, so there’s going to be blood. My last fight [winning a majority over Jerome Pampellone] was all blood. This fight is going to be more bloody than that fight; more harder, more punches, more blood. It’s going to be a war.

“I could have been a world champion a long time ago, but this is my chance to be a world champion. I’m going to be world champion, so God willing, I will make it first of June.”