By Keith Idec
Dmitry Bivol is the undefeated, defending champion and the favorite to beat Sullivan Barrera when they meet March 3 in New York.
Promoter Kathy Duva believes Bivol is the boxer with more to prove, however, when he battles Barrera in a light heavyweight bout HBO will televise from The Theater at Madison Square Garden. The 27-year-old Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) will take a step up in class when he defends his WBA 175-pound title against the Cuban contender.
Barrera’s lone loss came against Andre Ward, who was recognized as boxing’s pound-for-pound king when he retired. Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) also has knocked out Vyacheslav Shabranskyy and broke Joe Smith Jr.’s jaw on his way to a convincing, 10-round, unanimous-decision win July 15 in Inglewood, California.
As impressive as Bivol has looked, he was elevated from the WBA’s interim champion to world champion when Ward retired three months ago. The Kyrgyzstan native won that interim title by stopping Samuel Clarkson (20-4, 13 KOs) in the fourth round.
His two title defenses have come against Cedric Agnew (29-3, 15 KOs) and Trent Broadhurst (20-2, 12 KOs), both of whom he knocked out. None of those three aforementioned championship matches went past the fourth round.
“He’s really the one who’s stepping up here,” Duva said, referring to Bivol. “So from that perspective, I can see Barrera’s point [about thinking he can win]. Bivol looks terrific. He appears to have everything. He can punch, he’s very athletic, very focused. I’ve seen some amateur tapes of him that show he’s a far better boxer than we even realize, than he’s had to show in the ring so far.
“But I’ve seen a lot of fighters who’ve looked great against inferior opposition. So let’s see what happens when steps in there with a fighter who’s been in there with one of the very best fighters in the world in Andre Ward. [Barrera] is a fighter who’s stepped in there time and time again in fights that people don’t think he’s gonna win, and then he wins them. So I’ve got to respect that and give him credit. And Bivol’s gonna have to prove that he’s better than them.”
Duva’s company, Main Events, promotes Barrera and is working with Bivol. Main Events also promotes WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev (31-2-1, 27 KOs), who will defend his title against fellow Russian Igor Mikhalkin (21-1, 9 KOs), the IBO champion, in HBO’s main event March 3.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.