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We are in the middle of a golden period for boxing – heavyweight world title contests are selling out Wembley, game-changing women’s fights at Madison Square Garden, and now pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez is doing more pound-for-pound things by going up to light heavyweight to take on unbeaten champ Dmitry Bivol in Las Vegas.
Don’t sleep on Bivol – this guy is a serious boxer coming to the T-Mobile Arena on the Vegas Strip this weekend off the back of 19 straight wins since his debut in 2014. Canelo might be boxing’s numero uno but Bivol has been champion for five years and he’s been quietly outclassing some quality operators.
The Russian 175-pounder came through the ex-Soviet school of boxing and he had a long and distinguished career as an amateur. As a pro, Bivol, 31, has shown he’s an excellent all-rounder and he’s the established number two light heavyweight behind powerhouse compatriot Artur Beterbiev.
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Dmitry Bivol v Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez
Time: 4am Sunday, 8th May
The titleholder will use lots of clever footwork to move in and out of range, and he can mix up his jolting jab with power shots. It’s a style that Alvarez, also 31, has struggled with in the past – the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Erislandy Lara caused Canelo problems with their movement and elusiveness.
Unfortunately for Dmitry, the ginger Mexican is a much improved fighter since those scraps eight years ago – he defeated the best at middleweight on the planet in 2018, he cleared out the super middleweight division between 2020 and 2021, and he’s already flattened one of the best at light heavy, Sergey Kovalev.
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Canelo learnt from his loss to Mayweather in 2013, and he stepped up his game again after the wars with Gennady Golovkin in 2017 and 2018, but since 2019 the four weight world champion has switched gears again – Alvarez has knocked out four of his last five opponents, four of which were current world champions and three were unbeaten.
For all his experience and quality, Bivol will never have been put under the pressure Canelo will force on him in the ring this weekend. It’s not that I think the Russian will fold easily but he’ll be put in a position physically and mentally he’s never been in before.
There is also Bivol’s bout with Joe Smith Jr – although Dmitry was comfortably outclassing the American, Smith did land one big punch at the very end of the 10th round – Bivol swayed back to his corner and seemed ok by the beginning of the 11th, but it was a worrying sign.
Canelo has a habit of taking a round or two to have a look at his opponent – he gave early rounds away to Billy Joe Saunders and Caleb Plant in their bouts in 2021, and I can see him doing that again in Vegas. The first half of the contest might be tactical with lots of movement from Bivol, and while that plays out it will be close with little to score. But the flame-haired fighter will crank up the heat with every round, and I think Canelo will get another late stoppage.
Along with excellent boxing skills Bivol is a great athlete, but he’s not a huge light heavyweight, in fact, he’s bang on the average dimensions of Canelo’s most recent opponents. Once again, Alvarez will be giving up height and reach, but he’s got the head movement and fast feet to slip and counter.
Bivol is fresher than Kovalev, bigger and more robust than Saunders, and he’s better schooled than Plant – opponents Canelo KO’d in rounds 11, 8 and 11 respectively – however, Saul is still getting better and Bivol has been wobbled deep into a bout before. If you’re looking for big odds you have to look at the round betting market – I think another round 11 win for the multi-weight wonder is a great punt.
And if the regular boxing betting markets aren’t enough for you, Paddy has all sorts of combinations of knockout bets in his #WhatOddsPaddy section -the ones with big prices that involve Bivol getting knocked down have got my attention.
Bivol has never faced someone like Alvarez and there’s a chance that, despite his skills, he can’t handle the Mexican. If the low-key light heavy is caught in the ginger headlights he doesn’t have the stunning power required to keep Canelo at bay – check out our bookie’s bet for Canelo to put Bivol down early and finish the fight in the middle rounds.
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