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Dmitry Bivol Isn’t Done Fighting for Respect

Sports Illustrated 11/4/2022 Chris Mannix

Six months after a convincing win over Canelo Alvarez, Bivol is confident and ready to get back in the ring.

Dmitry Bivol—six months removed from a convincing win over Canelo Álvarez—arrived at a press conference this week looking and sounding a lot like Dmitry Bivol … six days before he shared the ring with Alvarez. He wore dark pants and a loose-fitting white shirt. He smiled sheepishly when questioned about his recent success. He praised his next opponent, Gilberto Ramirez, while shrugging off attempts to bait him into criticizing him.

“I have a lot of respect for [Ramirez],” Bivol said. “Boxing is a gentleman’s sport. I like when people respect each other. I don’t want attention for trash-talking. I want attention in the ring.”

Bivol-Ramirez is a good fight. A great fight. Bivol, fighting for the first time since out-pointing Álvarez, will defend his 175-pound title. Ramirez, a former 168-pound champion, is undefeated, including a 5–0 run (with five knockouts) at light heavyweight. Bivol is the superior boxer. Ramirez, who will likely outweigh Bivol by more than 20 pounds Saturday, is the bigger man. Bivol will attempt to win with movement and accurate punches. Ramirez’s strategy is to cut the ring off and swarm Bivol in the corners.

“He’s a good fighter,” said Bivol. “He doesn’t know what it means to lose.”

Bivol said he is focused on making history and securing a legacy. Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports © Provided by Sports Illustrated Bivol said he is focused on making history and securing a legacy. Joe Camporeale/USA Today Sports

The 2022 boxing calendar has been largely forgettable. Fighters—mainly on the men’s side—have spent more time arguing on social media than in the ring. Compelling matchups are rare. Most fighters are eager to turn the calendar to ’23.

Not Bivol. This year has been a defining one. A longtime titleholder, Bivol earned widespread recognition after defeating Álvarez, then boxing’s pound-for-pound king. “I feel more respect from people,” said Bivol. He entered the top 10 in most pound-for-pound rankings. A win over Ramirez on Saturday will not only retain his title, it will also likely cement him as the Fighter of the Year.

Bivol said the Alvarez win has not changed him.

“Inside of me, I try to be the same person,” Bivol said. “I try to feel the same feelings. Angry [and] hungry.” Members of his team, including his trainer, Joel Diaz, say they have seen a more confident fighter. Bivol disagrees.

“My confidence doesn’t depend on my last win,” said Bivol. “My confidence depends on my training camps. If I did everything my coach said in my training camp, I feel confident. If your camp was good, you will show your skills.”

Bivol spoke inside a gaming center on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. (The Middle East has become a preferred destination for significant fights.) Anthony Joshua has fought twice in Saudi Arabia. Representatives for Tyson Fury are eyeing Saudi for Fury’s planned showdown with Oleksandr Usyk next year. In announcing Bivol-Ramirez, Eddie Hearn, Bivol’s promoter, emphasized that this fight was the first of a Champion Series that would see more fights brought to the region. Said Hearn, “This is the start of a new world of boxing in the Middle East.”

That suits Bivol. He has been in Abu Dhabi since late September. “Weather, people, atmosphere,” Bivol said, ticking off the things he enjoyed. “I see how people love sport here. I love it. I hope people here will love boxing. Maybe it will become the main sport.”

He is puzzled by those that wonder whether he has the same hunger he once had (“It’s like water on my fire,” he said) and vows the best years of his career are still to come.

And he will have options. Álvarez said he wants a rematch with Bivol, perhaps as early as next May. That’s a fight that could earn Bivol well over $10 million. Bivol, though, has his eyes on a different prize: Artur Beterbiev, the unified light heavyweight champion. Beterbiev, said Bivol, is the priority. Canelo can wait.

“I have a dream,” Bivol said in an interview with Fight Hub TV. “I want to move forward with my career. I want to fight for other belts. How it will happen, I don’t know. Canelo, for me, is the past. In the future we could earn money [together]. But I want to make history. If I have more belts, why not rematch with Canelo in the future? My priority is to be undisputed. I don’t have much time left on my career. I want to move forward as much as I can.”

And the money?

“Money is good,” Bivol said. “Legacy is better. I love money. Everybody loves money. It’s not the main thing I think about. I want to make history. If I thought about money, I’d never be here.”

In Ramirez, Bivol expects a significant challenge. There’s a familiarity there—Bivol and Ramirez are former sparring partners—and, if you dig deep, some dislike. In the weeks before the fight was finalized, Bivol told his team: “Get me this fight.” Bivol has been irritated by Ramirez’s constant public clamoring and bothered by Ramirez’s suggestion that he was running from the fight. That Ramirez has been so confident during fight week has not gone unnoticed, either.

“I don’t know why he is so confident,” Bivol said. “For me it doesn’t matter. Maybe it’s because he never lost. Maybe he wants attention. It doesn’t make sense. But it’s all about fight. It’s all about what he does in the ring.”

Indeed. Bivol wants to be judged by only what he does in the ring. And what he has done has been impressive. He has toppled Canelo and is now taking aim at Ramirez on another big stage. After years of boxing in relative anonymity, Dmitry Bivol has arrived.

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