Over the last few years we have had some real frustrations at Light Heavyweight, where we have a lot of potentially interesting match ups to be made. Sadly however the bouts to define the division hasn't taken place, and instead two main fighters in the division have haf major issues securing the career defining bout they need. One of those is the much avoided Artur Beterbiev, who punches like a truck and has long been avoided, and the other is Dmitry Bivol (17-0, 11), who is skilled but lacks in terms drawing power and excitement.
Bivol has been the WBA "Super" champion for several years now, and has a string of good victories to his name, including the likes of Sullivan Barrera, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr, but has failed to land a massive monster fight. That wait for a career defining bout will need to continue, but thankfully he is in action on May 1st as he looks to keep his WBA "Super" title and his unbeaten record in tact. Sadly though his up coming defense is certainly not one to get the pulse racing. Instead of sharing the ring with a leading divisional fighter he'll be up against Englishman Craig Richards (16-1-1, 9).
The talented Bivol, who was born in Kyrgyzstan and now fights out of Russia, is one of the most technically correct boxers in the Light Heavyweight division and also, potentially, the biggest threat to Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. In fact Bivol has repeatedly offered himself as a potential "Canelo" opponent and offered to drop to Super Middleweight for that bout. Whilst technically very skilled he is, somewhat boring to watch and that seems to be something that he doesn't care about. He's happier to win a dull decision, boxing his way for 12 rounds, and controlling every minute of the bout than to take any risks and give fans anything exciting and memorable.
In terms of quality few match Bivol. He's got a brilliant jab, his understanding of the ring is top notch, he moves around the ring with a lot of ease and sets a high out put. But he keeps everything pretty much the same. He'll set the table with his jab, and then look to follow through with the occasional power shot, all at range. On the inside he holds, forces the referee to reset, and does the same in an attempt to keep the bout being fought as his bout. There is next to no drama in his bouts, which is a shame as early on he was exciting and fought like a man with a point to prove. He began his career 13-0 (11), but recently has been putting on controlled, but dominant displays against some very decent, but unspectacular, competition.
His challenger is much less well known and much less proven. In fact fans outside of the UK probably haven't seen too much of the 30 year old Richards, who has fought all 18 of his bouts in the UK. As with nay British fighters guys early career was relatively unremarkable, with fights against a string of limited journeymen, though his did show enough to be moved towards bigger and better domestic fights, fighting for the British title in his 11th bout. That was a huge step up, against Frank Buglioni, and he gave a really good account of himself, despite losing. Since then he has gone unbeaten, won the British title and proven himself as a solid domestic level fighter. Of course the step up from British level to world level is huge, and despite winning the British title there's still a fair argument that he's only the 5th best in the UK.
Before we get on to Richard's style we will quickly discuss the British Light Heavyweight scene, which is even more frustrating than the global scene. The UK has 5 very good Light Heavyweights. Callum Johnson, Josgua Buatsi, Lydon Arthur, Anthony Yarde and Craig Richards. From those 5 men we've only had one bout between two of them, and that only came last year. We've also seen two of the fighters fight for world titles, and soon to be 3, without any of them proving they are the best domestically. The division, domestically, has so much talent and potential, but politics has really left things feeling underwhelming.
In the ring Richards is a big, tall, rangy fighter. He looks incredibly relaxed and calm in the ring and has real patience behind his work. He's not the quickest, but he is a smart fighter, and a smart, tall fight can be a nightmare for anyone. His footwork is solid, and he uses it will to create distance, but he's not the quickest on his feet. What he does really well is he allows bouts to be fought at a slow pace. He's not an exciting fighter, he's not a fun fighter to watch, but he's technically very solid, with a sharp jab, good counter punching and he applies very intelligent pressure, without taking risks. He's physically imposing and that allows him to pressure in the way he does. Although certainly not a puncher he does have some sting on his shots and his TKO of Shakan Pitters last year was very impressive.
Sadly for Richards this is a monster step up and we think that the step up will be far, far, far too much for him. His patient pressure style has success at domestic level, but we can't see that carrying up to world level, especially not against someone as skilled, strong and focused as Bivol.
We expect to see Richards have some moments early on. He's awkward enough to have some success. But as the rounds go on and the tock ticks away Bivol will get a read on his man, then begin to break him down, grind away at him, and, eventually, beat him into submission. In fact we wouldn't be surprised at all if Bivol manages to score his first stoppage in 3 years and ends a 4 fights decision win.
Prediction - TKO9 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.