This coming Saturday is a crazily busy day in the world of professional boxing with a lot of major fighters in action and a host of world champions defending their titles. Sadly with so much going on it can be easy for a fighter to get lost in the shuffle, and that certainly seems to be the case for WBA Light Heavyweight "super" champion Dmitry Bivol (18-0, 11), who will be defending his title in Russia against Umar Salamov (26-1, 19). The bout, although a pretty damn good one, has flown under-the-radar, and almost sums up the last few years in the career of Bivol, who should have been a in huge fights by now, but is instead having one of the most frustrating careers of any world class fighter in the sport.
The 30 year old Bivol, originally from Kyrgyzstan though fighting out of Russia, is one of the very best at 175lbs. He's a smart fighter, with solid power, a high work rate, and a very good boxing brain. He has notched plenty of good wins as well, beating the likes of Felix Varela, Sullivan Barrera, Isaac Chilemba, Jean Pascal, Joe Smith Jr and Lenin Castillo. He, arguably, has the best resume of any active fighter at 175lbs. Sadly however he is also a huge frustrating figure, who has built a reputation as a fighter who is happy to win, and won't go out of his way to impress. To him it seems the victory is more important than making fans tune in and watch him, or care about him. We know he's not alone in that mentality, but it has made it easy for the other fighters in the division to freeze him out. He's too much of a high risk, low reward fighter, even with the WBA belt around his waste.
In the ring the most accurate description of Bivol is methodical. He fights at a steady tempo from round 1 to round 12, he keeps at mid to long range, uses good footwork and good straight shots. He does throw a lot of leather, in fairness to him, but it is almost all straight shots, and his inside work is very limited. He fights very much like a man who is boxing within himself and hasn't been required to use the top two gears. It's incredibly frustrating to watch him, knowing he can do so much more but know he doesn't want to do more. He just wants the win, rather than to shine, and create fan demand for bigger and better bouts. The worst thing is we know he can punch, we know he can bang, we know he can make statements, as he did when he stopped Sullivan Barerra and Trent Broadhurst, but he simply chooses not to.
Whilst Bivol is someone with the skills to impress, who has chosen not to, 27 year old Umar Salamov is someone who simply hasn't yet been given the chances to impress, but will know this is a huge opportunity for his career. He's been a professional since 2012 and began his career in Ukraine, being matched softly, before stepping up and scoring notable wins over the likes of Doudou Ngumbu, Bob Ajisafe and Eil Markic, decent European level fighters. In 2017 he differed his first loss, a razor thin one to Damien Hooper, but since then has found a nasty side going 7-0 (5) and scored decent wins against the likes of Sergei Ekimov.
In the ring Salamov is a tall, long fighter at the weight, standing at around 6'3". He looks to use his reach, fighting behind a long jab, and he does well in setting the table with it, even if it's not the most spiteful jab out there. He looks relaxed in the ring, but can be seen over-reaching and making silly mistakes, often when trying to land his right hand, which is a very powerful shot but not one thrown with much crispness to it. In fact whilst he does look like someone who knows what he's doing in the ring, he also looks like someone who lacks real polish. There's a lot to like, but there's a lot of areas where it's clear he needs to tighten things up, and that's both offensive and defensively.
Sadly for Salamov whilst he has got tools to make a mark in the sport, his flaws are the major issue, and against someone as technically well schooled and as smart as Bivol those flaws will be picked apart. Salamov's willingness to fight at range, even with his height and reach, will not serve him well against the crisp, clean, and accurate 1-2's of Bivol, who will use his head for target practice. Salamov's ugly defense leaves him open and Bivol will be able to land time and time again. It will, for all intents, look like Bivol and his team have picked the perfect dance partner.
The real question is "Will Bivol look to score a finish?" Sadly we don't think so, and instead we're expecting a long, dreary, decision win for the frustrating champion.
Prediction - UD12 Bivol
World Title Previews
The biggest fights get broken down as we try to predict who will come out on top in the up coming world title bouts.