Boxing is a funny sport at times. The key is to win, and that's the first thing that a fighter needs to focus on. A win at all costs mentality is an absolutely must have for fighters in the upper echelons of the sport. Sadly though some fighters miss out on a secondary goal, "to entertain". If you don't entertain fans will struggle to care, no matter how goo you are. Especially if you appear to be cruising fight after fight, in risk free performance after risk free performance. Safety comes first, for sure, but it's not 100% about winning and winning safety.
Without drama there is no reason to watch.
One fighter who needs to realise that fans to appreciate comfortable yet safe cruising is WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11) who, yet again, appeared willing to kill the entertainment factor to win. And he did so against an opponent who served as little more than a tough, durable, but gun shy foe, in the form of Lenin Castillo (20-3-1, 15).
Going into the bout Castillo had been derided as a poor opponent. In reality he wasn't a poor opponents, he was a lazy one. He had skills, toughness and solid pop, but lacked desire and ambition. That was on show early on here, as Bivol quickly figured his man out, but never pushed. He never fought out of his comfort zone, and Castillo was never forced out of his. When Bivol could have let things go a bit more and force Castillo to show something he didn't. When Bivol knew Castillo didn't want to bite down and fight back he never took the fight too him.
Bivol was in total control, he even dropped Castillo in round 5, but never looked like he wanted to use that control to entertain. He looked like he was happy to simply out box an opponent who was happy to make up the numbers.
The few rare times that Bivol to up the output, such as late in round 8, he had Castillo in problems, and showed he had it in his arsenal. Yet the work rate was never sustained, and he never looked to make a statement. Instead of going in and taking out his man he was happy to just win the roads.
After 12 rounds the bout was scored 120-107 and 119-108, twice. It was however another bout that has further damaged Bivol's standing in the sport and again made him look like he's 100% focused on winning, and has no interest at all in entertaining, making the most of his opportunity or having fans want to see him.
Bivol is massively skilled, but these dreary 12 round decisions wins, which are getting more and more 1-paced and undramatic, will turns fans off him and quickly. He's become tedious to watch and someone in his team really needs to have a word with him. Decisions themselves aren't the issue, is the way he goes about them, fighting in second gear, that is the issue, and is a problem that needs to be solved. Quickly.
On Saturday night we had a WBA Light Heavyweight title bout, that saw defending champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] successfully defend his title against heavy handed American challenger Joe Smith Jr (24-3, 20). On paper this looked like it could have been a potentially tricky assignment for Bivol, but he managed to really just neutralise the dangerous challenger in what was a clear but unexciting win for Bivol.
Smith showed ambition from the off, and came forward, trying to set the pace but quickly found Bivol's footwork and movement to be too much. Bivol would land, get out of range and watch Smith miss. For the first 3 rounds it was clear that Bivol was too good, too sharp and too smart for Smith who had been made to look second best through the early stages.
Thankfully for Smith he did change things in round 4, when he began to let his hands go a bit more, and up the intensity. It worked and Smith would land one of his more notable shots, seemingly shaking Bivol for a moment with a right hand. The danger of Smith loomed but Bivol was too smart through the middle rounds to really come face to face with the danger. In fact the only real damage in the middle rounds was in round 7 when Smith's knees buckled big time from a huge left hand of Bivol's, though to his credit Smith withstood the follow up attack.
By round 10 it seemed clear that Smith was needing to land something huge, and he actually managed that, right on the bell to end round 10, when he sent Bivol stumbling to his corner. It was too late in the round to follow up on, but did show that the power was there for the American. The shot seemed to leave an effect on Bivol who was less with it in round 11, but never looked in any trouble as he continued to control the bout late on.
In the end there was no questions about the judges scorecards, with the judges turning in scores of 119-109, twice, and 118-110, all in favour of Bivol. It was a clear win for the champion, but a bit of a dull one, and it does seem like Bivol is becoming less and less interesting, a real shame. There is however a feeling that he will be heading down in weight and it may be that facing smaller men than Smith will allow Bivol to put on more entertaining performances than this.
The penultimate HBO card saw Kyrgyzstan born Russian Dmitry Bivol (15-0, 11) [дмитрий бивол] headlining, as he successfully defended the WBA Light Heavyweight title against former champion Jean Pascal (33-6-1-1, 20), who proved to be much gamer than expected.
The opening moments of the fight saw Pascal coming forward, but it was short lived ambition from the 36 year old Haitian-Canadian, who seemed to stop in his tracks when he was caught with a right hand late in the round. Although Pascal wasn't out and out hurt the shot it did seem like his confidence and desire disappeared almost instantly.
In round 2 Bivol began to land more consistently, using his excellent and busy jab. That jab was then used to set up all of Bivol's work, as he methodically broke down Pascal with clean shots to head and body. Pascal, to his credit, did have some moments but they were few and far between early on as Bivol slowly and carefully chipped away at him, seemingly scoring a knockdown in round 4, though it was ruled a slip.
In round 8 Pascal suddenly came alive, catching Bivol with a wild shot and following it up with hard, looping sloppy hooks. He seemed to Bivol who, for the first time, look a little worried, before holding and regaining his composure. It was Pascal's only chance, and it cost him as he seemed to put everything in to the follow up, which Bivol survived, before returning fire with interest.
The start of round 9 was delayed due to the tape on Pascal's glove, giving him additional time to recover his gas before the round began. That extra rest proved to be useful for Pascal who seemed again had moments in round 9 as he upped the tempo, at least for burst, and found the range for his jab and his hook in what was another good round for the challenger.
Bivol seemed like he had had enough of Pascal in round 10 as he upped the pace and began unloading straight shots on to the head of Pascal. Pascal dug in deep and survived the onslaught before pushing Bivol back. Bivol picked up the pace again in round 11 as Pascal was made to look slow through the round, due to Bivol's movement and output, both of which picked up during the round.
Going into the final round it seemed clear that Pascal needed a KO to win. He had done enough to take a round or two, but wasn't even close to being level on the scorecards. Despite Pascal needing a KO it was actually Bivol who was pressing the action in the final round, and it seemed like Pascal was happy to just see out the final bell, something very few expected from him.
At the end of the bout there was no doubting the winner, Bivol had been a clear winner. He had however taken far more shots than he'd have wanted, and ended up with a nasty bruise under his left eye, and had clearly not had the result he was wanting. Sadly for Bivol this is the second bout where he's failed to really shine this year, and although still unbeaten there is clear work to be done before he attempts to unify.
For those interested in the score cards, they were 117-111 and 119-109, twice for Bivol.
This past Saturday fight fans in the US were able to see Kyrgyzstan born Russian boxer-puncher Dmitry Bivol (14-0, 11) successfully retain the WBA Light Heavyweight title, as he scored a clear decision win over the tough and tricky Isaac Chilemba (25-6-2, 10).
The talented Bivol started well and seemed to look the boss early on, but struggled as the fight went on, with Chilemba's defensive skills blunting the usually destructive power of Bivol. In round 7 Chilemba showed the offensive skills to back up Bivol, and it showed flaws in the champion who looked uncomfortable boxing on the back foot. Not only was Chilemba pressing Bivol backwards but had also got a read on him, and was able to make Bivol look a bit predictable with some competitive action.
By the end of the fight Bivol had began looking more and more ordinary, though was generally doing more than enough to win the rounds, albeit competitive rounds. Chilemba though was not doing himself nay disservice and made things tricky round after round for the champion.
After 12 rounds it seemed like Bivol had done enough, but had failed to shine. Despite that two of the judges scored the bout 120-108 for him, whilst the other had the bout 116-112 in his favour.
There will be no one complaining about the result, though Bivol's performance was somewhat underwhelming, whilst Chilemba performed better than expected.
Supposedly the plan had been for Bivol to face off with Sergey Kovalev, in a WBA/WBO unification bout in the near future. Sadly however that plan was scrapped not long after this bout, with Eleider Alvarez upsetting Kovalev with a 7th round KO.
(Image courtesy of Sumio Yamada)
On Saturday night we saw WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11) being asked questions he'd never been asked before, though he came up with answers for ever everything as he successfully defended his title against Cuban Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14).
The fight started cautiously, with both men showing a lot of respect to each other and not taking too many early risks. It was high quality action with Bivol being the more accurate and smart fighter whilst Barrera looked the busier man. The second round saw Bivol suffer a cut, around his right eye from a clash of heads, and for the first time in his career he was suffering some adversity. Despite the cut he really didn't look too bothered by the facial damage and picked up the pressure in the rounds to come, using his under-rated footwork to control the tempo, it was a reserved style, but a very effective one from Bivol.
Barrera, to his credit, was always trying to answer and often pressed the action, though lacked the accuracy to have the success he needed to really back up Bivol, who always looked amazingly composed. Not only was Bivol composed but he was consistently landing his shots, including regular single hard blows, and combinations that were damaging due to their accuracy.
Barrera's toughness was impressive but he was wasting down from the shots, and seemed to have the fight beaten out of him at times, before his heart forced him to fight back. It was the same heart and desire that has made Barrera one of the most fan friendly Cubans in the sport, but also one that has caused him to take a lot of punishment through his recent bouts.
In round 12 Bivol upped the pace, as if he had been holding something in reserve and landed a brutal combination, punctuated by a hard right hand that sent Barrera down hard. The Cuban, even with all his heart and bravery, didn't stand a chance and failed to recover to his feet in time to beat the count. Instead the Cuban suffered his first stoppage loss, whilst Bivol scored the statement win he, and his team would have dreams of.
The future for Bivol is really exciting, and he may well be the most rounded Light Heavyweight on the planet. Though after the fight he admitted he had improvements to make, and will be looking at the what has caused him to get cut, and for the lumps to form on his head. For Barrera this is probably the start of the end, and he may not have too much left in his body after this loss, and his recent bouts.
Kyrgyzstan born Russian based Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10) [Дмитрий Юрьевич Бивол] has been seen by many of the sport's hardcore fans as a future star, and potentially the next big star of the Light Heavyweight division. Today he had a chance to showcase his ability, and make his first defense of the WBA title as he took on Australian Trent Broadhurst (20-2, 12) in Monaco.
The opening moments saw Broadhurst show some genuine ambition as he came out with his jab, though it wasn't before Bivol was himself moving forward, using his intelligent pressure to back up the challenger. The pressure saw Broadhurst going down, and having a knockdown scored against him despite it being unclear whether it was a punch that actually sent him down. Despite coming forward Bivol was incredibly patient, and didn't need to show his high work rate to have the challenger backing up.
In the final seconds of the round Bivol landed a very pure right hand and Broadhurst went down hard. Although the shot didn't seem like a huge punch it was so clean and pure that it caught Broadhurst perfectly and there was no getting up from the shot.
After the fight Bivol gave a great interview, showing some solid understanding of English and making it clear that he wants to be a star in the West, having his bout shown in the UK and US. There are big bouts out there for him, which will test him much more than this one, but this was a great way to announce himself to fans who hadn't seen him before. For those who had been part of the “Bivol Express” this performance just goes a little bit further to showing what a talent Bivol is.
Just a few years ago Sergey Kovalev (26-0-1, 23) was a relative unknown in boxing circles. Today he is the unified Light Heavyweight champion having added the WBA "super" and IBF titles to the WBO title he won last year when stopped Nathan Cleverly and announced himself on the world stage. The stoppage over Cleverly was Kovalev saying "look at me, I'm destructive" today however he impressed by boxing, using a great game plan and out-boxed boxing master boxer Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2-2, 32).
In more than 20 years nobody had really out boxed Hopkins. He had been beaten 6 previous times but they was usually down to faster fighters out working him not out boxing him, not dominating him and certainly not making him look lost in the ring. Those however were all adequate descriptions for what Kovalev did from the opening round to the final bell.
The fight started very slowly, it was at Hopkins's pace and tempo. Usually that spells failure for fighters as Hopkins slows bouts down and wins them on skill, timing and ring IQ. This time however Hopkins wasn't able to do what he usually did, the pace suited Kovalev who imposed himself with intelligent pressure, smart timing and very calculated offense which saw him dropping Hopkins in the opening round with a well timed right hand. Despite the bout being incredibly slow prior to the knockdown, it seemed to give Kovalev the belief that he could stop Hopkins and he went on the offensive in the final minute.
Having failed to put Hopkins away in round 1 Kovalev let the pace slow, continued to pressure Hopkins and seemed to "out Hopkins" Hopkins with patience, smart boxing and controlled work. There wasn't a lot of hard solid shots landed early on but plenty of body jabs got through from Kovalev who fought a very respectful fight knowing that Hopkins could be dangerous if he was given chances. When Kovalev did open up, notably at the end of round 3 and part way through round 4, he seemed to shake Hopkins who should true resiliency to remain up right despite the pressure.
By round 6 it was looking like a masterclass from Kovalev who was at total ease with the pace of the bout. There was no reason to rush, no reason to get reckless and no reason to even think about stepping up the pace. In many ways it seemed less like he was fighting Hopkins's tempo and more like he was fighting his own controlling everything about the contest.
Despite being in total control Kovalev was given a reminder that he had to keep his concentration up in round 7 when Hopkins landed a couple of clean shots. Sadly for Hopkins it really was just a couple of clean shows whilst he was out worked, out landed and completely shut down for the rest of the round. It was true that Hopkins landed the 2 best shots of the round but that was all he did in the fight's closest round. Sadly for the American legend he was punished in the next round as Kovalev detonated a monstrous right hand that had Hopkins shaken momentarily and left everyone wondering how he remained up right. The huge right wasn't the only notable connect from Kovalev in the round with the Russian landing some notable counters late in the round and it seemed like he was really breaking Hopkins down.
If the 8th had been bad for Hopkins then the 9th was worse as Kovalev seemed to put his foot on the gas and landed several eye catching and hurtful shots that would have seen off lesser fighters than Hopkins who took them amazingly well but seemed to be sent into survival mode by them. It was a time where a corner may have considered pulling their man out, after all Hopkins was needing a KO by that point and, apart from a single bit of success in round 7, it never really looked like he had what was needed to even rock the Russian.
Hopkins knew he was in a hole by the start of round 10 and seemed to show fire in his belly for the first time as he landed several big looking shots, unfortunately for him they bounced off Kovalev who landed far more shots than Hopkins and landed the more impressive shots. It was almost like seeing Kovalev go "I can do anything you can do, better than you".
Typically in a Hopkins fight we see some messy action, some wrestling, some holding and some spoiling. We didn't really see much of that until round 11 when both seemed happy to partake in some wrestling. The reason we saw so little of it was due to the fact that Kovalev was a stronger man than Hopkins and it was shown the few times they did clinch with Hopkins being the one who looked uncomfortable.
The discomfort Hopkins felt in the clinch was nothing in comparison to the discomfort he felt through much of the final round. Hopkins began the round well and appeared to rock Kovalev early in the round. The Russian must have felt disrespected by Hopkins hitting him and the Russian went on an all out offensive onslaught rocking Hopkins time and time again. It was as if Kovalev had said to himself that he wanted to stop Hopkins and really unloaded shots that bounced Hopkins around the ring. It seemed both were tired but Kovalev wanted the stoppage regardless. Sadly the Russian was against the clock and the clock won with Hopkins just seeing out the round. Had their been another minute left we suspect the referee would have had to have saved Hopkins.
Although the bout went the distance there was no real question as to who won and for once the judges all got it right scoring the bout 120-107, 120-107 and 120-106, presumably scoring the final round a 10-8 round.
For Kovalev this is a win that gives him a fantastic claim to being the best Light Heavyweight on the planet. It's clear that Adonis Stevenson is the "linear" champion but Stevenson has shown no inclination to get in the ring with the Russian and with that in mind, and with this performance in the bag, there is no real argument against having Kovalev as the #1 Light Heavyweight out there. For Hopkins this loss probably spells retirement. Aged 49 this was likely the last time Hopkins will fight as a professional boxer and although he lost here he showed what a tough son of a gun he was, whether you like him or not it's hard not to respect him for what he's managed to do in a long and impressive career
When we talk about living legends in the world of boxing few can rival the 49 year old Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2-2, 32) who once again showed his skills and class as he became the oldest boxer in history to unify world titles as he unified the IBF and WBA "Super" titles at Light Heavyweight.
Hopkins, fighting against Kazakhstan's Beibut Shumenov (14-2, 9), was masterful in a display that may not have been hugely exciting but was the perfect example of what skills can do in the ring.
The fight started slow. It started very slowly. The first 4 rounds saw very little action from either man and could well have gone either way. We, like we expect many others, had it even through 4 rounds with neither man having assumed control. It could have been 40-40 with each of the rounds scored evenly such was the lack of action.
From round 5 we began to see Hopkins go through the gears. He went from not throwing a great deal to landing at will with either his jab, his left hook or, more regularly, the straight right hand that tattooed Shumenov's face time and time again. It was clear that Hopkins was now in charge and Shumenov had no answer. Early on, when nothing was happening, things were even but with Hopkins letting his hands go it really wasn't even close.
Through rounds 6, 7 and 8 it became more and more one sided as Hopkins manage to evade what little Shumenov threw as the Kazakh seemed to spend too much time waiting and not enough time working. It was incredibly frustrating to to watch Shumenov, who usually lets combinations go, fight in such a restrained way. It seemed that he had picked the wrong tactics and been lulled into Hopkins's pace of bout, it was a double whammy and Kazakh simply couldn't adapt as the fight began to slip away from him.
Round 9 finally saw Shumenov letting some combinations go. Unfortunately it wasn't as much a change in tactics but more a feeling of desperation as the Kazakh began to realise his reign as world champion was coming to an end. Unfortunately for Shumenov it was too little too and much of the work was easily avoided and countered by Hopkins who saw much of the assault coming and fired back with solid shots in return. A similar pattern followed in round 10 as the desperation got ramped up again and Hopkins became even more dominant with his counters. It starting to look like a genuine schooling by Hopkins who looking like a teacher to the powerful but limited Shumenov.
Going in to the championship rounds it was obvious that Shumenov was going to need knock downs to cut down the difference on the scorecards. Surprisingly though it was Hopkins who would score a knockdown in round 11 as he effectively put the bout beyond any doubt. Hopkins didn't seem satisfied with just the knock down however and instead tried to end Shumenov's fight with some follow up shots after Shumenov got to his feet. The Kazakh saw off the storm but by then it was merely a question of whether or not Shumenov would make it through the final round.
The 12th was mostly a continuation of the previous round as Hopkins made Shumenov pay for his lack of speed, his poor defence, which included his left hand being kept low through the entire fight, and his lack of work rate. It seemed at one point that Hopkins rattled Shumenov though soon afterwards he let Shumenov off the hook, preferring to stick his tongue and pull faces rather than trying to close the show.
With Hopkins bossing much of the bout through the middle and later rounds the decision seemed an obvious one. At best you could have made a case for 5 rounds to Shumenov, and that was being polite, though with the knockdown against him and at least 7 rounds going to Hopkins there was no doubting the winner...or was there...
When it came to the the scorecards Jimmy Lennon Jr was forced to read that the bout had been scored a split decision. The first scorecard was 116-111 to Hopkins, about what we'd had it, the second however was a mysterious and frighteningly bizarre 114-113 card in Shumenov. Thankfully 2 of the judges got the right guy with the third card reading 116-111 in favour of Hopkins who made a comment about the judges before talking up a potential bout with the hard punching Adonis Stevenson and claiming he wanted to clean up the Light Heavyweight division.
Whilst Hopkins may dream of cleaning up the titles at 175lbs he is unlikely to be able to claim the WBO belt as WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev is signed to rival network HBO and this would prevent a Kovalev/Hopkins bout. It's unfortunate but that bout is likely to go down as one of those classic "what would have happened if..." bouts. One thing is for sure, Kovalev wouldn't have been as tame as Shumenov was here with the Kazakh effectively giving his belts to Hopkins due to his incredible low out put which suited Hopkins down to the ground.
For what it's worth, Asianboxing.info scored the bout 117-110 Hopkins
(Image courtesy of http://www.goldenboypromotions.com)
Whilst we all want world champions to be active and defending their belts on a regular basis this isn't always possible. For whatever reason Kazakhstan's Light Heavyweight Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9) has been one of those inactive champions. The WBA "super" Light Heavyweight champion, for whatever reason, had been inactive for 18 months. Despite the long lay-off though Shumenov was still regarded as a top Light Heavyweight and thankfully we saw why as he made his return to action this weekend.
Fighting little known Tamas Kovacs (23-1, 14), who entered the bout as the WBA's #14 ranked contender, the bout was seen as a mismatch from the off. Despite the fact it was a mismatch it was also clearly a chance to give Shumenov a showcase bout on Showtime under new promoter Golden Boy Promotions. It was a chance to also shake off the ring rust and give Showtime their own Light Heavyweight fighter having seen rival network HBO establish 2 of their own in the past 12 months.
Unfortunately the bout proved to be every bit the mismatch that people thought it would be.
Kovacs started well, but by started well we mean he had a good first 30 seconds. Within a minute Shumenov had began to find his rhythm, timing and by the end of the round he was not looking like a man who had been inactive for more than a year. If anyone was looking rusty it was Kovacs who was dropped very late in the round by a left hook.
For Kovacs the first round was probably his best, or rather Shumenov's worst. The second round saw Shumenov going up a gear and he dropped Kovacs again, this time with a lovely left uppercut that had a delayed reaction. It was clear the men were in completely different leagues in terms of skills and power.
With Shumenov knowing he was in total control he went out for round 3 looking for the perfect shot. He was waiting for a bomb and although he did take one or two in the round he knew he was going to get a chance to drop Kovacs for a third time. That chance came earlier than some would have expected as Shumenov dropped Kovacs for a third time with a powerful straight right. This time the referee wasn't willing to let Kovacs go on. It had only taken 3 rounds but Shumenov had managed to make a statement.
It seemed that Showtime were trying to push a bout between to Shumenov and IBF champion Bernard Hopkins. In all honesty we'd expect Hopkins to win that one if it gets made but unfortunately Shumenov's options are quite limited. It appears that Sergey Kovalev, Adonis Stevenson, Lucien Bute and Jean Pascal are all tied up with HBO, Shumenob however is, as mentioned, a Showtime fighter. We hope that Shumenov can get good fights but it's clear that the best fights out there aren't going to be there for Shumenov, at least in the short term. Hopkins would be one option another would be WBA "regular" champion Juergen Braehmer but apart from those fights it's hard to see an interesting option for Shumenov.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.