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.
Every so often a fighter comes along that looks special, the most recent of those is Dmitry Bivol (7-0, 6) who successfully claimed the WBA “interim” Light Heavyweight title with a dominant win over Felix Valera (13-1, 12).
The talented and hotly tipped Bivol was stepping up in class, as he has done with everyone of his fights, and was expected to be pushed hard by Valera, who had impressed in out pointing Stanislav Kashtanov last year. Instead however he made it look easy as he showed a real maturity and calmness to his boxing from the first round.
The opening round was a slow and patient from both men, with neither looking to take risks. As the fight progressed the risk taking didn't really change, but Bivol managed to up the pressure, force Valera backwards. When he was doing that he was winning rounds with his calm and accurate punching being too much for Valera who was trying to counter, but wasn't given the opportunity. In round 3 that work rate saw Valera struggling, whilst in round 5 Valera seemed to show the first signs that he was worried about Bivol's power.
It was smart of Valera to be wary, but that didn't help and in round 6 he was caught by some bombs from Bivol, who dropped Valera and almost came close to stopping Valera who was very lucky to see out the round, and looked completely done.
Valera had recovered in round 7, but that was a temporary relief with Bivol unloading on Valera in round 8, and against dropping dropping the champion, who was forced to take a huge amount of punishment through the round.
Knowing he was well in the lead, especially given the two knockdowns, Bivol seemed to relax, slow down and take a breather in round 9. The championship rounds again saw Bivol step it up, but it seemed clear that he was happy to take the win without risking too much, he came forward, patiently and intelligently pressed the action and although Valera had his moments it was always a controlled effort from Bivol.
Given the dominant performance their was no doubting the winner, with Bivol taking the bout thanks to scores of 119-107, twice, and 116-111.
One year ago we were all raving about Canadian based Haitian Adonis Stevenson (25-1, 21) who had taken the boxing world by storm with wins over the likes of Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud. He had claimed the WBC Light Heavyweight world title and defended it twice. This year however he has faltered. In his first defence of 2015 he struggled to over-come the unheralded Andrzej Fonfara, who left us asking a lot of questions about "Superman". In his second bout of the year Stevenson took on Russian fighter Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-3, 16), a man we thought give Stevenson some more questions to answer. Sadly Stevenson made Sukhotsky look very basic and negative, or rather Sukhotsky made himself look basic.
From the first round onwards it was clear the men were on different levels. They started by fencing with the lead hands and it seemed that Stevenson's jab was getting through quickly and early whilst Sukhotsky looked clueless as to what he needed to do in one of the worst rounds of the year. The fencing was won by Stevenson who moved on a level in the second round as he clearly out landed the Russian who was becoming more and more negative whilst being dropped in the second round form a push-come-shove.
By round 3 Stevenson had began to find a home for his straight left hand whilst Sukhotsky was beginning to walk into shots. The Russian had no plan B and just followed Stevenson around the ring eating a steady diet of shots. It was embarrassing to think that Sukhotsky was fighting the way he was fighting considering the talent he had shown in previous bouts though he show nothing other than an ability to follow a foe.
In round 4 Stevenson's success continued to grow as Sukhotsky became more and more predictable. It was clear the Russian was out of his depth and had no idea what to do. Thankfully however we were put out of our suffering in round 5 as Stevenson finally upped the ante and dropped Sukhotsky 3 times to record the stoppage.
Althoudgh Stevenson had won with ease he hadn't really really impressed. He had an opponent who was made to order and he did what he was supposed to do. Sukhostky looked like garbage, Stevenson, whilst looking good, didn't look like a sensation. Instead Stevenson looked like a man who had sparred with some sort of novice, not a man defending his world title against a top level foe. Sadly Stevenson, who was interviewed after the fight, blew his chance at making fans by proclaiming himself as the top dog in the division rather than calling out out Sergey Kovalev, the only man people want to Stevenson fight. He had the chance but blew it by letting his ego rule.
The fight wasn't great and it's a shame that Stevenson's desire from last year appears to have gone. Last year he seemed happy to prove his greatness, not he seems afraid to find out he's not all that. Sukhotsky may have been a win that has boosted his ego though the performance of both men suggest that Stevenson really has little to take away from this bout.
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
Just a day after agreeing terms to fight Bernard Hopkins in November we saw Russian power puncher Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1, 23) successfully retain his WBO Light Heavyweight, despite being dropped in the opening round, very unexpectedly.
Kovalev was fighting against the unbeaten and somewhat tricky Blake Caparello (19-1-1, 6) who looked confident in the opening by using his jab well as Kovalev stalked. Surprisingly, though as mentioned above, Kovalev did go down in the opening round, though on replay it was clear that Kovalev had his foot stood on causing him to lose balance before the shot was landed by Caparello.
Although Kovalev looked frustrated times in the opening round he appeared to be settling in to his rhythm prior to the bell.
As we all know when Kovalev is in the groove he is destructive and we saw it here as he dropped Caparello with a clean body early in round 2. From then on it was a case of just how long Caparello could survive.
It turned out that Caparello's survival instincts weren't great and instead of holding, moving or doing anything to survive he stood in the corner, waved in Kovalev and acted as if he had no idea how to survive in the ring. Kovalev obliged the willing victim and went on the offensive with very calculated pressure and picked his shots excellently sending Caparello down again...and then again as the referee, Sparkle Lee, was forced to wave off the bout.
With such a quick victory it will likely be a quick return to the gym for "Krusher" who will working with his team to put together a gameplan to defeat Hopkins who was ringside for the bout.
(Image courtesy of Main Event)
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.