Bivol paints masterpiece vs. Ramirez to retain light heavyweight title
Dominant victory could set up rematch with Canelo
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As he prepared for his next fight, Dmitry Bivol insisted he had put his huge win over then-pound-for-pound king Canelo Alvarez in May behind him. There would be no letdown and no overlooking his next foe, he said.
Bivol put his words into action as he turned in a supreme performance in a one-sided decision victory over mandatory challenger Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez to retain the WBA light heavyweight title on Saturday in the main event of the Matchroom Boxing card on DAZN at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Bivol won 118-110, 117-111 and 117-111 and was in complete control from the outset. Fight Freaks Unite also had it 118-110 for Bivol, who retained his 175-pound belt for the 10th time.
“It was good,” Bivol said of his performance. “I could be better, but I was in with a tough opponent.”
The win likely locked up fighter of the year honors for Bivol, who took down the much bigger and undefeated Ramirez for a second highly significant victory of the year six months after he throttled Canelo.
“I proved myself,” Bivol said of his 2022 campaign. “I can beat the best guy in the world and I was happy. Now I beat another guy who doesn’t know what losing is. It means a lot to me.”
Bivol fought a controlled fight at his pace and when he let his combinations go he often found the target, peppering the much slower Ramirez with clean straight right hands throughout the bout.
Ramirez tried to apply pressure at various times but had very little success and rarely landed anything clean or in combination. Mostly, Bivol forced him back and toyed with him.
“The Lion is not the biggest animal in the jungle, but he is king,” Bivol said. “Yeah, Zurdo is bigger than me; that doesn’t matter.”
Bivol’s all-time favorite fighter is the late, great Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker, who was a defensive master and there were stretches against Ramirez when he looked like he was channeling his inner “Sweet Pea.”
According to CompuBox statistics, while Bivol landed 131 of 643 punches (20 percent), he held Ramirez to a very Whitaker-like 107 of 878, just a 12 percent connect mark.
In the fifth round, Bivol connected with three right hands in a row to back Ramirez into the ropes. Ramirez never landed anything to deter him from advancing and in the seventh round Bivol connected with a right hand that swiveled Ramirez’s head.
Bivol forced Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs), 31, of Mexico, to the ropes in the eighth round and unloaded on him with a quick flurry. In the ninth, Bivol landed heavy shots in the middle of the ring. Ramirez had no answers whether the fight was taking place with him on the ropes, in the center of the ring, at close range or on the outside.
Bivol had to believe he was way ahead going to the final round, but he did not take his lead for granted and closed the fight with a big 12th round. He landed 18 of 69 punches — a fight-high in connects that he also achieved in the first round.
Ramirez tried to argue that he deserved to win but it was a half-hearted attempt and he did not come off as though he really believed it.
“I did my job. I went to the body, I threw a lot of punches,” Ramirez said. “At the end of the day, the judges did their job. Congratulations. That’s all.
“I think I did enough. The judges did their job. I’m grateful to be here. Congratulations to Bivol and his team.”
The differences between Alvarez and Ramirez are stark other than that they are both Mexican. Ramirez, who was 5-0 with each win by knockout since vacating the WBO super middleweight title and moving up in weight in 2019 and winning two title eliminators in a row, is a southpaw and much taller and longer than Alvarez. Bivol said he was well prepared for the differences.
“He fought a different fight than Canelo. I spent a lot of time to be prepared and confident in this fight,” Bivol said. “He’s a southpaw and does a lot of body punches. He doesn’t throw one punch (at a time). He throws three, four punches.”
If Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs), 31, has his way he will next face three-belt light heavyweight champion and Russian countryman Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) for the undisputed title but that is unlikely. Beterbiev is due to meet British mandatory challenger Anthony Yarde in early 2023 in England.
Bivol knows that but he can dream can’t he?
“I have a goal. I want to be undisputed champion but it’s doesn’t only depend on me,” Bivol said. “If everything depends on me I fight for four belts in my 11th fight maybe. It’s not only up to me who I will fight next.”
A rematch with Alvarez is possible for when Alvarez returns from a wrist injury he was already dealing with going into his decision win over Gennadiy Golovkin in their trilogy fight in September. Whether he will be back in the spring or next fall is unclear at this point but Bivol didn’t sound too interested in a sequel with the man he already beat fairly handily — even though a rematch would represent his biggest payday.
“I’m like a kid who had a dream. I want go for this dream,” Bivol said. “My heart wants it but my mind and my brain understand how things go. I prefer to fight for another belt but if I don’t have this chance in a couple months, four, five months, of course I will take another fight.”
Asked if he would consider dropping down in weight to challenge Alvarez for the undisputed super middleweight title, a move Bivol had often suggested was possible before he finally landed the Alvarez fight at light heavyweight, he sounded mildly intrigued.
“It depends not only on me but for four belts? It’s interesting fight. Why not? But remember, I am light heavyweight,” Bivol said. “This is my weight.”
It is indeed and he showed once again why he just might be the best in the world at 175 pounds.
Also on the card:
In the co-feature, WBC/IBF women’s junior welterweight titlist Chantelle Cameron (17-0, 8 KOs), 31, of England, defended those belts and also claimed the vacant WBO and WBA titles in a unanimous decision over undisputed welterweight champion Jessica McCaskill (12-3, 5 KOs), 37, of Chicago, who dropped down in weight for the fight, to become the undisputed champion at 140 pounds. Cameron opened a big lead in the first half of the fight before McCaskill rallied to make it close. Cameron, who said afterward that she is interested in moving up to 147 pounds to challenge McCaskill for her undisputed title next in a rematch, won the hard-fought bout 97-93, 96-94 and 96-94.
Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14 KOs), 28, a southpaw from Tajikistan, rallied from a third-round knockdown and stopped Zelfa Barrett (28-2, 16 KOs), 29, of England, in the ninth round to win the vacant IBF junior lightweight title that had been stripped from the injured Joe Cordina, who was unable to make a due mandatory defense against Rakhimov. Barrett was in control for most of the fight before Rakhimov, who had fought to a draw with Joseph Diaz Jr. in a previous shot at this belt in February 2021, dropped him twice in the ninth round and got the stoppage at 2 minutes, 35 seconds.
Photos: Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing
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