Dmitry Bivol on the big stage in Las Vegas
While Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev – who will engage in their rematch tonight from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas – and Adonis Stevenson represent the current hierarchy of the light heavyweight class, Artur Beterbiev, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Sullivan Barrera and Joe Smith Jr. (who meets Barrera on July 15) are legitimate contenders who will soon garner title shots.
Dmitry Bivol hopes to join them soon.
Bivol was placed on the pay-per-view undercard and paired with Cedric Agnew.
“For me, it shows the value of what I do in the ring because of the people that gave me the opportunity to be on the show – that means the value is high. It means I give them what they want as a fighter,” said Bivol through his manager Vadim Kornilov after one his final days of training at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California.
You could call this a showcase fight but it wont be the first time the 26-year-old Bivol will have been seen by the Stateside audience. On April 14, he impressively blew out Samuel Clarkson in four rounds, as the main event on “ShoBox.” Clarkson had developed a well-earned reputation as a spoiler and was coming off a string of upsets but, on this night, at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, he was dominated from the very beginning of the bout.
Bivol says of that evening, “I remember that, in the beginning of the fight, in the first round, I was able to land a good shot to the body and that affected (Clarkson) negatively and, after that shot, everything else went in the direction I wanted to.”
Sometimes its not if you win but how and, on this night, Bivol served noticed that he is a real threat in the 175-pound class. “I do think this was one of the fights that showed that I can be a TV fighter, that I’m a puncher and that I bring to the table what people want to see,” said Bivol, who captured the interim WBA title that night.
Bivol was born in Kyrgyzstan and now resides in Russia. He proliferates the wave of boxers who have come from this part of the world. (Like Gennady Golovkin, he is of Korean heritage from his mother’s side.) His manager says simply, “Dmitry is the next big thing in boxing coming out of Russia.”
With the victory over Clarkson, Bivol put himself in position to face WBA “regular” beltholder Nathan Cleverly but Kornilov has his doubts if that fight will come to fruition.
Word is Cleverly could face former WBC super middleweight titlist Badou Jack in the late summer.
Regardless, for Bivol, this weekend represents a chance to strut his stuff in front of a worldwide audience on a high-profile card. Kornilov, who, in the past, guided the career of Ruslan Provodinkov, told UCNLive.com, “The last two months, my number one thing was negotiating this fight, making sure we do the right thing and don’t make a mistake. That fight (versus Clarkson) brought him out and there’s a lot of different opportunities we could’ve taken, a lot of different routes we could’ve went. I wanted to make sure we did the right thing.
“I’m very glad everything worked out and working with Kathy Duva and Main Events has been great and, so far, we’re having a good relationship and, overall, this is his coming-out party. This is now where he has to really keep up to his reputation that has started on that ShoBox date.”
For Kathy Duva, the head of Main Events (which promotes Kovalev), bringing Bivol onto this card made perfect sense. “He’s somebody that we’ve been talking to about with World of Boxing for some time and, really, the first time I met with (former World of Boxing Director) Andrey Rabinsky, I told him, ‘That guy looks like the real deal. If you ever want to bring him to the United States, we’d love to talk to you.’ He is a young and talented fighter.”
And what really attracted Duva to Bivol is his age.
“He’s 26,” she points out, “and you look at the contenders in that division, they are all in their 30s, like Beterbiev and Eleider Alvarez and Sullivan and on and on. You look at all of them, these guys are all in their 30s. Gvozdyk is 30. So here, you got a 26-year-old who looks like the real deal. He’s only got 10 fights but you could see this is the next generation, if you will, of this division. He looks like he’s got a future.”
But first he has to take care of the present, which means getting past Agnew, 29-2 (15), who was stopped by Kovalev in seven rounds back in March of 2014.
Bivol states, “I’ve looked at his fights. He has good defense; that’s his main advantage. He knows how to defend himself. He has good, quick counter-punches and those are his main advantages.”
With an emphatic victory, Bivol will further stamp himself as a player in this division, if not earn an immediate title shot.
“It’s very hard to say. This next fight will be the one where I’ll be looking at to see how I perform at this level and it will be one of the deciding factors in answering that question,” said Bivol. “But I do think I’m very close to being able to fight for the world title and fighting one of the best.”
Also on this undercard is a middleweight bout between Luis “Cuba” Arias and Arif Magomedov. It’s been a few years since Arias has been televised, having been farmed out to various club shows by RocNation Sports, since signing on with them.
For Arias, it’s his opportunity to mark his arrival as a middleweight contender.
“I hope to make a big statement,” Arias told UCNLive.com. “I already feel I’m one of the best in the division. I’ve been climbing the rankings on my own. I really haven’t had all that much help. I’ve still been winning. I’ve still been making my name and it’s here finally – I get to showcase to the world that I should’ve been here and I’m ready to put on a show, that I’m a threat to anyone in the division.”
Also on this pay-per-view bill is WBA 122-pound titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux facing Moises “Chucky” Flores.
So has the summer heat finally arrived?…No matter what you hear or read, Golden Boy Promotions has no intention of moving the Miguel Cotto-Yoshihiro Kamegai fight from August 26 from the StubHub Center…Newly-crowned WBA super middleweight titlist George Groves has joined the “World Boxing Super Series” tournament…Reminder, there is also boxing on ESPN2 and CBS Sports Network tonight, so check your local listings…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.