The Canelo Alvarez roadshow continues this weekend as he steps into the familiar shiny lights of Las Vegas to tackle Dmitry Bivol in what could well be his hardest test since a primary Gennady Golovkin.
A genuinely competitive match-up for the game’s No 1 is not the simplest find; he demolished Callum Smith, Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant one-by-one to etch his name in boxing folklore after setting out on a quest for super-middleweight domination.
But in WBA (Super) light-heavyweight champion Bivol, a legacy-hungry Canelo, who stands at just 5ft 8in, finds himself against a legitimate 175lb champion coming into his prime, one who’s hell-bent on claiming boxing’s most rewarding scalp.
Canelo Alvarez (left) and Dmitry Bivol (right) go head-to-head this weekend in Las Vegas
Canelo is hunting more glory after becoming undisputed super-middleweight champion
To be clear, it is a challenge Canelo personally selected; in opting to sign a two-fight cope with Eddie Hearn and Matchroom, a deal that may see him fight Golovkin in September if he wins, the Mexican turned down a £100million package by PBC to remain within the 168lb division and defend his newly-claimed jewels.
Yet, as Canelo embarks on a latest journey to undisputed, having outlined his intention to steamroll through one other division, there are some who consider he could fall at the primary hurdle.
Included is supremely confident Bivol, who after seven successful defences of his WBA crown faces by far the most important test of his young skilled profession.
Though the betting odds may inform you otherwise, there are many viable arguments to make for Bivol – the significantly larger man at 6ft – ahead of Saturday night’s battle.
The 31-year-old Russian, albeit coming in with just 19 fights on his pro record, was as experienced as they arrive upon turning over into the professional ranks in 2014, winning a staggering 268 of his 283 bouts as an amateur.
Included in his list of accolades are two U17 World Championships, two Russian national amateur championships and a World Combat Games gold medal – and his pedigree and expert fundamentals are immediately evident every time he takes to the ring.
It’s these fundamentals which could cause Canelo problems this weekend; his thudding jab, sharp right hand and intelligent movement will definitely give the Mexican food for thought within the squared circle.
Bivol puts his WBA (Super) light-heavyweight belt on the road against the pound-for-pound No 1
A 6ft tall Bivol comes into the bout with a big height advantage over a 5ft 8in Canelo
What Canelo likes to face is a fighter willing to have interaction, willing to face and trade, willing to exhaust themselves while the defensively-savvy fighter slowly but surely breaks them down as he steadily ups the tempo.
What Canelo doesn’t like – if there’s such a thing – is a fighter who could make him miss, a fighter able to staying on the skin, in a position to avoid his power punches and negate his energy-sapping pressure.
We have seen examples of this perhaps only a handful of times throughout the Mexican’s profession, with only Floyd Mayweather holding a victory over Canelo – and that got here when he was 23.
On that night, down all the best way at super-welterweight, Mayweather proved too elusive, as a hapless Canelo simply couldn’t find the goal. ‘I didn’t know how you can get him – it’s very simple,’ he said after the fight. ‘We tried to catch him but he’s an incredible fighter, very intelligent. There was no solution for him.’
We have also seen Canelo struggle in patches against Amir Khan, who he eventually knocked out with one punch, Saunders, who also suffered a stoppage defeat, and Erislandy Lara, who he marginally defeated by split decision in 2014.
It must be noted, though, that while Canelo cut a frustrated figure against Mayweather and Lara – two fights now long up to now – he was never in any danger against Khan or Saunders, and ultimately, definitely in his mind, the result was all the time foregone conclusion.
Canelo’s only defeat got here against Floyd Mayweather Jr back in 2013 when he was just 23
Canelo struggled at times against Billy Joe Saunders (left) and Amir Khan (right) but claimed stoppage victories in each
Nevertheless, Bivol does have the tools to make this a protracted, uncomfortable evening for Canelo.
You could possibly point towards Bivol’s quite lackluster victory over Craig Richards in Manchester last 12 months and make a case for a Canelo walkover. But Richards is definitely no mug, and in reality it was a reasonably comfortable evening for the Russian.
Richards has recently explained what it’s like being within the ring with Bivol, insisting Canelo is not in for a simple night.
‘Canelo won’t have the opportunity to shut the space as easily as he does with other people,’ Richards told talkSPORT. ‘Bivol all the time throws when he can, he’s very busy together with his hands and he’s a pointy shooter, so it won’t be a simple task for Canelo.’
More notably, Bivol breezed past former world champion Jean Pascal in 2018, and though getting clipped and hurt against Joe Smith Jr, ultimately strolled his option to victory. He also looked sensible as he defeated fellow countryman Umar Salamov late last 12 months.
Put simply, while Bivol hasn’t exactly blown the roof off in any of his profile encounters, nobody has come even near beating him as of yet.
Bivol has the peak, reach, jab and temperament to make it a difficult evening for Canelo
Craig Richards, who was beaten by Bivol last 12 months, insists Canelo will not be in for a simple night
Height: 5ft 8in
And what is going to help him on Saturday night – or the early hours of Sunday morning, depending where you are viewing the fight – is his temperament.
Plenty of fighters have lost before they’ve even stepped into the ring against Canelo, with the stage, the hype, the potential rewards all an excessive amount of for them. Bivol, though, looks cool, calm, collected – and ultimately confident – as fight night approaches.
‘I feel in my skills,’ he told The Ring. ‘I actually have beaten everybody that I actually have fought in my profession, I feel that I can beat Canelo as well.
‘Every boxer has their strengths and their weaknesses. No person is ideal. My goal is to give attention to my strengths and use them to my advantage.’
One thing Bivol won’t do is attempt to appease the gang. The Russian wouldn’t care if the fight goes down as one in every of the least entertaining in history, as long as he gets his hand raised at the tip.
And with Canelo a typically cautious starter, as he uses his clever footwork and relentless feints to empty his opponents, we could well be taking a look at a little bit of a chess match early on within the fight.
Indeed, Bivol presents a latest test for Canelo, being significantly brisker than Sergey Kovalev within the Mexican’s only other enterprise as much as 175lbs, also a much tougher goal to hit than Smith – who is definitely a good amount taller than the Russian. But Saturday’s underdog has never faced anything even near his impending opponent.
Canelo did not have all of it is own way as he stepped as much as 175lb against Sergey Kovalev in 2019
However the pound-for-pound star got the job done as he stopped the light-heavyweight in round 11
Primarily, Canelo’s mentality sets him aside from almost anyone within the fight game today. ‘I prefer it… Why not?… I’ll fight everyone. I do not f***ing care,’ he told reporters this week after being asked a couple of match-up against Oleksandr Usyk.
Yes, you read that right, Oleksandr Usyk – the guy who ripped away Anthony Joshua’s heavyweight belts last 12 months. A man Hearn revealed Canelo would love to fight 1lb above the cruiserweight limit – or, in other words, for the heavyweight belts.
Canelo genuinely believes he could pull off what would surely be a near unimaginable task – and never in the identical way a certain Jake Paul “genuinely” believes he could beat the Mexican.
That inner belief, crucially, never diminishes throughout a fight, no matter the way it’s going.
Such is Canelo’s belief, the Mexican insists he could beat Oleksandr Usyk at heavyweight
Against Kovalev, it was very close before he found a stoppage within the eleventh round, but he remained patient throughout. All of the work he puts in – from his gut-wrenching body shots to his calculated pressure – is all deliberately designed to mentally and physically reduce his opponents to a fraction of what they entered the ring as.
Callum Smith – who had won all 27 bouts before sharing a hoop with Canelo – later explained just how difficult facing Canelo is.
‘Once I stood in front of him he didn’t look big physically. I believed: “I am unable to lose to a person that big”. He’s thick-set, he has presence, he closes the gap,’ he said.
‘He may be very clever by way of the jab,’ he continued. He walks you down. With anybody else, you’ll jab. But he wants you to jab because he’s a counter-puncher. So you do not throw as many jabs and while you’re waiting, he closes the space down without throwing anything.’
‘He takes away what you’re good at,’ he concluded.
Canelo was significantly smaller than a 6ft 3in Callum Smith once they fought in 2020
But Smith, who suffered a points loss, later insisted Canelo ‘takes away what you’re good at’
Not only is Canelo masterfully intelligent within the ring, he’s also got dynamite in each fists, with 39 of his 57 wins coming by knockout. And definitely, particularly together with his body work, he has the facility to harm Bivol.
Nonetheless, while Bivol has enough power to maintain Canelo honest, he perhaps doesn’t have enough to stop him. And with that, as is so often the case in boxing, the Russian will likely must deliver a comprehensive beating if he’s to be awarded a choice victory in on the T-Mobile Arena.
Ultimately, picking anything aside from a Canelo win is maybe not the sensible bet. But neither is assuming he won’t must undergo periods of real adversity throughout.
Particularly early on, with Bivol fresh and his awkward style latest to Canelo, it may very well be an intriguing but possibly not action-packed affair. But, because the fight develops, as Canelo works Bivol out and gets into his rhythm, you are feeling the Mexican superstar could prove just an excessive amount of over again.
Whether it’s by knockout, or by a hard-earned points win, a September trilogy against Golovkin – after Canelo claims one other win to maneuver to 58-1-2 – is the protected bet.
With victory, Canelo will likely go on to face Gennady Golovkin, for a 3rd time, in September