Not many called it and the ones who did were struggling to get their voices heard. Canelo Alvarez was dominant, and unstoppable, moving up to different weight classes to be great there. The excellent talkSPORT podcast even cheekily suggested Oleksandr Usyk come down in weight so Canelo could fight him!
The ones who were talking about Dmitry Bivol, who was putting his WBA Light Heavyweight title up, talked about his movement and his power. They weren’t wrong.
So How Did Bivol Win?
The Guardian called the win ‘utterly dominant’ and it could be seen that way. Canelo was frustrated throughout, calling Bivol on after shipping a combination in the 5th, even lifting his opponent on his shoulder in the penultimate round. Canelo found something out early on.
You can’t hit what isn’t there.
Bivol used his speed to quickly move in and out, he circled away quickly, he just wasn’t in range. Canelo is too talented a fighter to be swinging and missing, leading with his chin and giving counter opportunities, but the Bivol punches were coming round the high guard and later on simply through the guard and Canelo didn’t seem to know what to do about it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, you don’t need the centre of the ring if you’re mobile, buzzing around your opponent and making yourself a real pest. That’s what Bivol did here, his footwork was stupendous, his hand speed superior, his positioning fabulous; he even worked Canelo over to the ropes.
He stuck to his game plan and didn’t look too concerned about Canelo’s power. After all, there wasn’t much coming from him, Bivol threw significantly more punches.
So this was Bivol’s fight, let’s be clear. But it takes two…
No, not at all, he started faster than usual and landed some big punches. But those punches didn’t seem to do Bivol damage, he seemed flat-footed too.
Did Canelo’s vaulting ambition undo him? The 4 belt-holder wants more. Of course, he does, nothing wrong with aspiration; he’d been talking of moving up in weight for a while.
He was so pre-eminent, that there didn’t seem to be much consideration about the rigors and concerns about going up in weight. Were those things apparent here? Not sure about that, but he seemed to have little movement, even looking a little too planted, with a lessening of power compared to his other fights.
Something else was odd here too. Canelo looked frustrated early on and that didn’t change. Why didn’t it change? Why couldn’t he make that change? Did his team give him the fight advice he needed? And was he unable to take that advice?
Again, we can only speculate but Canelo carried on round after round not getting through the Bivol guard, as the BBC reported, the champ told us;
‘I felt his power. You can see on my arm, he beat my arm up but not my head. That’s better.’
This fight made Canelo look as ordinary as a phenomenal fighter can; his first loss in 8 years was a bit of a whimper for him.
What Happens Next?
Well, Canelo wants another fight with Bivol, you’d expect him to say that, but he had a tough night, couldn’t unpick the puzzle that Bivol posed and another loss to him will harm his reputation.
Right now? The loss doesn’t. The way he lost does, but not too many are talking about that. Bivol apologized for messing up the big fight that was on so many lips, the Golovkin fight, but why should it?
This loss just makes it tastier. Golovkin has hurt Canelo Alvarez in the past, but was older now; ah, but now Canelo had been beaten so that puts them closer…
This loss won’t harm the match which can make the money. Eddie Hearn reported Bad Left Hook, said in the press conference;
‘I think Canelo against Dmitry Bivol (in a rematch) is probably the biggest fight in boxing right now, but it’s going to be down to Canelo, and obviously, we’ll speak to Dmitry and (manager) Vadim (Kornilov), but I can’t see (Canelo) not wanting to accept the challenge.’
and that might be the case now. But money talks and if another loss to Bivol harms that, people will be thinking twice.
Bivol? Well, he’s not only just beaten seemingly unbeaten Canelo, but he also controlled the fight – he was amazing. But he wasn’t flashy, he stuck to his game plan and if you like boxing, it was brilliant, but that doesn’t necessarily sell tickets. Bivol will continue to be brilliant, this seemed like another night between the ropes.
Of course not. It can be seen as a night of hubris for Canelo, pride before a fall. Hearn in Bad Left Hook again;
‘I said in the build-up, it’s like Canelo wants to handicap himself and fight these big, great champions to test himself, and tonight it was maybe a bridge too far against a great light heavyweight world champion. But knowing Saul, I would think he would only want one fight, which is the rematch with Dmitry Bivol.’
‘handicap himself’? ‘…a bridge too far? Strong words and well picked. Better perhaps It is all about ambition to challenge yourself. Has Canelo found something in boxing that he can’t do?
It’s human. That makes it so more interesting. Boxing, eh?