Full credit to Malik Zinad. Just five weeks after scoring a majority decision win over Jerome Pampellone in Australia, he stepped into the ring against light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol on Saturday, and for five rounds he did everything he could to remain competitive against one of the top boxers in the world.

It wasn’t a lot – Zinad rode a long jab and not much else – but he showed real fight. He got up from a first-round knockdown and he even, perhaps unwisely, taunted Bivol at the end of Round 4. But in the end, his valiance was for naught, as the Libya-born, Malta-based boxer wilted under a Bivol assault in the sixth round in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

For Bivol (23-0, 12 KOs), it was his first knockout victory since stopping Sullivan Barrera in the 12th round in New York in 2018, six years and nine fights ago. But he said afterward that he at no stage felt his power had deserted him.

“I believed that my power was every time with me,” he said. “I didn’t have doubt.”

It briefly appeared as if he might be able to dispense with Zinad even earlier than he did. Although Zinad (22-1, 16 KOs) started positively behind a long jab, he appeared understandably anxious as he went about his business, whereas Bivol watched him with his characteristic coolness. And when Zinad stayed in place a beat too long after throwing an overhand right, Bivol retorted with a rapid-fire three-punch combination that began and ended with a left hook and Zinad on the floor.

Zinad, however, refused to buckle, and he returned immediately to his game plan, firing jab after jab and occasionally mixing in a right hand behind. Bivol took almost every punch on his gloves, but he also appeared to be in danger of slipping into the monotonous pace that has occasionally frustrated even in dominant wins over the last several years.

At the end of the fourth, Zinad chose to walk up to Bivol and place his forehead against his opponent’s, seemingly taunting him. Whether this proved material in what was to come can’t be objectively determined, but it almost certainly didn’t help.

In the fifth, Bivol stalked forward with greater purpose, closing the gap and forcing Zinad to work with more energy. Even so, the gulf in class was so evident that another decision win would have been a disappointment.

Bivol, however, was merely biding his time. A left hook in the sixth round was followed by a straight right hand that detonated on Zinad’s jaw, and suddenly the challenger was in trouble. Bivol unleashed with a controlled, two-fisted fury, sending Zinad into and along the ropes, into the corner, and promoting referee Howard Foster to halt proceedings at 2:06 of the sixth.

Bivol had been scheduled to face Artur Beterbiev for the undisputed light heavyweight championship, but his fellow Russian injured the meniscus in his knee, prompting a postponement and granting Zinad his shot at glory. It was announced after Bivol's win Saturday that the much-anticipated clash has been rescheduled for Oct. 12.