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Bivol talks Sullivan Barrera fight strategy

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By Allan Fox: WBA World light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (12-0, 10 KOs) says he’s going to use speed and movement to defeat his mandatory challenger #1 WBA Sullivan Barrera (21-1, 14 KOs) in their fight on HBO Boing on March 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The 27-year-old Bivol and 35-year-old Barrera will be fighting on the undercard of Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin card on the 3rd of March. That’s a voluntary defense for the 34-year-old Kovalev, and the fight figures to be a mismatch like his previous contest against Vyacheslav Shabranskyy on last November. Despite Kovalev-Mikhalkin being a mismatch on paper and much inferior fight compared to Bivol vs. Barrera, Kovalev is the star on the card. Bivol is not well known yet.

This is the second defense for the Russian Bivol, who successful defended his title last November in stopping Trent Broadhurst in round 1. That wasn’t expected to be an evenly matched fight, as Broadhurst was ranked low in the World Boxing Association’s top 15 at 175 when he was picked to fight Bivol.

Barrera, 35, is supposed to be a different story. He’s ranked No.1 by the WBA, and he’s looked good lately in beating Felix Valera, Joe Smith Jr., Paul Parker and Shabranskyy. Barrera has a 4-fight winning streak going for him since his loss to Andre Ward in March 2016. Ward’s hand speed was too much for Barrera. Ward was able to hit Barrera with shots while he was coming in all night long, and that kept him doing much in the fight. Bivol doesn’t possess the same hand speed that Ward had, but he does move well, and he has far better punching power. Barrera was able to handle Joe Smith’s power in their fight last year, but Smith had a hand injury in that fight.

”Every fighter has his own weaknesses,” Bivol said. I don’t necessarily want to discuss what Barrera’s weaknesses are. I think the best way to see it is just to see the fight and see where he was stronger and where he was weaker,” Bivol said.

Barrera’s weakness is obviously his speed, but his stamina might also be a problem. We’ll have to see if Bivol is able to exploit those 2 areas. Barrera is about to turn 36, and he’s quite a bit older than the 27-year-old Bivol. That doesn’t mean he’ll lose based on his age. Gennady Golovkin is 35, and still getting the better of fighters younger than him like the 27-year-old Saul Canelo Alvarez, as we saw last September. Fighters age differently, and Barrera seems to be fighting at a level that you would see from someone in his late 20s rather than in his mid-30s.

”Ward showed a lot of good speed in a fight. He showed a lot of good movement, a lot of body movement in the fight, and possibly this is some of the things I would like to use in the fight as well,” Bivol said.

Bivol is probably not being serious about him using movement against Barrera. Bivol has never shown the tendency to move around the ring in his fights. Bivol fights more like Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin with him stalking his opponents the entire time, looking to knock them out as fast as possible. Bivol has very heavy hands, and it would be a waste of his time for him to use movement against Barrera. Bivol is the bigger puncher of the two. For Bivol to change his fighting style for the Barrera fight would be a massive surprise to a lot of boxing fans, because he’s fought as a slugger his entire 4-year pro career.

As an amateur in Russia, Bivol compiled a 268-15 record. He didn’t have the same kind of success as Golovkin in the amateur ranks, but he was still a very good fighter. Many of Bivol’s losses took place 10 years ago when he was still a teenager fighting opposition a lot older than him. By the time Bivol was in his 20s, he was winning all the time and no longer taking loses like he had earlier.

As a Cuban amateur, Barrera captured a gold medal in the 2000 AIBA junior World championships. Barrera finished his amateur career with a 285-27 record. Barrera’s amateur record is like Bivol’s in terms of fights. Barrera has been a pro for 5 years longer than Bivol after starting out in 2009. Despite his long amateur career, Barrera has been moved slowly by Main Events. They should have pushed him a lot faster because Barrera wasted many years fighting poor opposition that he didn’t need to face given his experience. Barrera has been a pro for 9 years, and he should have been matched against top contenders in his first two years a pro instead of them waiting until his 6th year before matching him against his first contender. It’s such a waste of some of Barrera’s prime years for him to be moved so slowly. It’s sad when a quality fighter like Barrera rots on the vine with him being put in with dreadful opposition the way he was by his promoters.

”I always try to fight with a high IQ. I want to make sure that I’m responsible for the movement that I make and I understand what’s going on,” Bivol said. I’m always thinking on my feet. But, of course, after the fight, I want to make sure that the fight was also entertaining for the fans.”

Bivol needs to understand that it’s not only important for him to beat Barrera, but he also needs to entertain the boxing fans as well in doing so. That means he needs to make it exciting, because he’s trying to build a fan base like the one Golovkin has. Bivol needs to set himself apart from flawed fighters like Kovalev, who have already been exposed in losses to Ward. Bivol needs to look good in this fight, and not think about fighting defensively by running around the ring for 12 rounds. That would be a self-defeating move for Bivol to fight defensively, as those type of fighters don’t last on network television in the U.S. They might have a place on television in other countries, but in the U.S, it’s important for fighters to fight in an exciting manner by going after their opponents.


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