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Kellerman says Dmitry Bivol could be No.1 fighter in 175lb division


By Sean McDaniel: Max Kellerman of HBO liked what he saw of WBA World light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) with his 12th round knockout win against mandatory challenger Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14 KOs) last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Kellerman gave the 27-year-old Bivol a huge compliment after the fight by telling him that he might be the best 175 lb. fighter in the division today. The praise from Kellerman seems to be premature at this point in Bivol’s career, as he still needs to prove himself against the best fighters in the weight class.

The 36-year-old Barrera was not an easy fight for Bivol by any stretch of the imagination. Bivol got hit a lot, and he’ll need to fix his leaky defense when he faces the better fighters in the light heavyweight division like Sergey Kovalev, Badou Jack, Adonis Stevenson, Oleksandr Gvozdyk, Juergen Braehmer, Marcus Browne, Eleider Alvarez and Artur Beterbiev. Bivol might have too much offensive skills for Gvozdyk and Jack. Those guys don’t let their hands go nearly as much as Bivol, and they lack his hand speed. But Stevenson and Kovalev would be good tests for Bivol.

“There seems to be some room for improvement, and yet you might be the best light heavyweight in the world already,” Kellerman said to Bivol.

Bivol’s stamina would appear to be the major flaw that he showed last night against Barrera. Bivol’s power and speed dropped off from the 5th round, and he couldn’t regain it until the 12th. Bivol was still out-boxing Barrera, but he wasn’t as dominating as he’d been in the earlier rounds of the fight.

“What do you have to work on? It seems you boxed a very crisp until midway through the fight, and then maybe you didn’t have the same snap on your punches for a couple of rounds, but you continued to dominate boxing and then eventually you got the knockout, when it looked like maybe you’d be satisfied getting the decision,” Kellerman said.

The Bivol-Barrera fight was the co-feature bout on the Sergey Kovalev vs. Igor Mikhalkin card on HBO Boxing last Saturday. Bivol took Barrera out with a flurry of shots in the 12th round. Barrera was knocked down by a right hand from Bivol. The referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight after a badly shaken Barrera got back to his feet. The fight was stopped at 1:41 of round 12.

At the time the fight was halted, Barrera was ahead by the scores 109-100, 109-100 and 109-100. Boxing News 24 had Bivol winning 109-100. Bivol’s fast hands and combination punching allowed him to dominate the slower Barrera. The first 2 rounds, Bivol was connecting on 2 to 3 punch combinations and getting the better of Barrera. There were a lot of heavy shots that Barrera was taking in each round that wore him down. After the fight was over, Barrera’s face showed the after effects of the heavy punches that Bivol had landed. Barrera’s face was badly swollen, and his lips looked swollen and bloody. Barrera also had a couple of lumps on his forehead from the accidental head-butts that occurred in the. Bivol’s forehead looked even worse with 2 large bumps.

Bivol was noncommittal when asked by Kellerman who he wants to fight next. Bivol says whoever wants to face him to try and take his WBA belt, they’re welcome. He says he’s not the one that makes the fights for him. It’s his management that chooses his opponents, and they’re going to decide who the best option is for him. That’s not likely going to be Kovalev, Stevenson, Jack or Artur Beterbiev. With all probability, it’s going to be one of the top 15 contenders in the World Boxing Association’s rankings.

Bivol’s next opponent will likely be selected from this list of fighters:

• Eleider Alvarez

• Karo Murat

• Shefat Isufi

• Joe Smith Jr.

• Juerge Braehmer

• Joe Fournier

• Mike Lee

• Blake Caparello

• Jack Ball

• Egor Mekhontsev

If you narrow it down even further, Bivol’s next opponent will likely be selected from this group: Smith Jr., Braehmer, Lee, Murat and Fournier. Braehmer or Smith Jr. would be excellent choices for Bivol to fight. The other guys aren’t so great. Alvarez is ranked #1 with the World Boxing Council, and he appears to be still waiting for a world title shot against WBC champion Adonis Stevenson. Marcus Browne would be a good option, as would Anthony Yarde, but those fighters are ranked #1 and #2 with the WBO. They’re waiting for a title shot against WBO champion Kovalev. The 34-year-old Kovalev has been around a lot longer than Bivol, so there’s more of an upside for Browne and Yarde to fight him. Besides, Kovalev is looking very beatable now after his 2 losses to Andre Ward. That makes Kovalev as the better option for Yarde and Browne to be facing rather than Bivol.

“I’ve got the goods to be the best light heavyweight in the world, but I’ve got a lot of work to do to be the best in the division,” Bivol said. ”I have to fight the best in the division and prove I’m the best. You can be the best only when you fight the best. I’m not going to attack anybody. I have a belt, whoever wants it can come and get it.”

A unification fight for Bivol would seem to be out of the question right now. Adonis Stevenson has never shown interest to unify the 175 lb. weight class. Stevenson has a good thing going milking his WBC title in Canada against mostly fringe level contenders. He’s probably not going to break from that pattern, even though he’ll be defending his WBC title next against former 2 division world champion Badou Jack. If Stevenson wins that fight, he’ll likely return to his old habit of fighting lower level contenders to extend his title as a world champion a little bit longer. IBF champion Artur Beterbiev just signed with Top Rank, so it’s not likely he’ll be put in a risky fight against Bivol. Top Rank will probably have Beterbiev fighting one of their fighters like Oleksandr Gvozdyk. Kovalev will probably be soon facing his No.1 contender, as he’s yet to face his mandatory since winning the WBO belt last year. Bivol probably won’t fight Kovalev until 2019.

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