By Sean Jones: Andre Ward is interested in seeing the light heavyweight unification fight between champions Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol shortly. Beterbiev-Bivil will be a fight between a classic boxer Bivol (17-0, 11 KOs) and a puncher with devastating power, and a relentless style of fighting in Beterbiev.
Bivol and Beterbiev would be a huge fight when boxing returns after the coronavirus goes away. Fans want to see these two highly skilled light heavyweights face each other, and this would be a great fight.
Beterbiev coming off win over Gvozdyk
The big-punching Beterbiev is coming off of a career-best victory over WBC 175-lb champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk (17-1, 14 KOs) on October 18 in Philadelphia. A lot of members of the media felt that Gvzodyk would outbox Beterbiev plain and straightforward, and wear him down like he had against 40-year-old Adonis Stevenson. As it turns out, Beterbiev was the one that wore Gvozdyk down with his pressure and stopped him in the 10th round.
A lot of people were impressed with how Gvozdyk dispatched Stevenson, but they failed to realize the fact that Adonis was in his 40s, and not the same fighter he once was. Additionally, Stevenson had Gvozdyk hurt in the 9th round after nailing him with a left to the head, but he wasn’t able to take advantage of it.
Bivol is the last guy at 175 standing in the way of Beterbiev cementing himself in as the #1 guy in the weight class. Most boxing fans already view the two-time Russian Olympian Beterbiev as the top guy, but if he beats Bivol, he’ll have proven it beyond doubt.
Canelo chose not to fight Bivol or Beterbiev
Most recently, Canelo Alvarez was in the light heavyweight mix after beating WBO champion Sergey Kovalev, but he vacated his belt and has now moved back down. Some viewed that decision by Canelo as him conceding that he’s not on the level of Beterbiev and Bivol and that he’d rather than not fight those lions.
Canelo’s decision to vacate his WBO light heavyweight title looks to some like he ducked Beterbiev and Bivol. It would have been interesting to have seen how Canelo would have done against both of them. The Mexican star received much credit for beating 36-year-old Kovalev, but there’s a good chance that he would have lost if he fought Beterbiev or Bivol.
Canelo’s decision to schedule a fight with Billy Joe Saunders rather than stay at 175 to take on Beterbeiv or Bivol looks like he chose to take the more natural path. It’s not that Saunders isn’t a good fighter. He’s got some talent, but he’s seen as the weakest of the champions at 168 and not someone in the same league as Beterbiev or Bivol. If Saunders fought those two, it would likely be a total mismatch in favor of Beterbiev and Bivol. That’s Canelo’s decision not to fight those two looks like he ducked them.
Ward says he could see a case for WBA 175-pound champion Bivol outboxing Beterbiev, but he would need to avoid getting hit. Bivol doesn’t want to get clipped by a big puncher like Betebierv because it could end badly for him.
Until recently, IBF/WBC champion Beterbiev (15-0, 15 KOs) had been was on course to defend against his Fanlong Meng on March 28, but the coronavirus has caused that fight to be postponed until a later date.
Dmitry Bivol can’t afford to get hit by Beterbiev
“I like it. You and I have covered Bivol for several years at HBO. I went and interviewed him personally and watched him train,” said Ward to ESPN UK. “He’s a very skillful guy. He may be a little bit undersized for the weight class for the 175-pound division, but he’s skilled. He gets hit sometimes, and you don’t, and you don’t want to get hit by a guy like Beterbiev,” said Ward.
Bivol has been hurt before by Barrera, and Beterbiev would have an excellent chance of doing the same thing to him.
We’ve seen fighters try and run from Beterbiev, and it’s never worked for them. Beterbiev cuts off the ring well, and he forces his opponents to trade. In Beterbiev’s controversial loss to Oleksandr Usyk in the 2012 Olympics, he stalked the reluctant Ukrainian round the ring, stunning him severely, and landing the much harder shots.
A lot of boxing fans saw Beterbiev getting robbed in that fight. However, the match showed how it’s possible to have success against Beterbiev if you can stay on the move for the entire battle. This writer had Beterbiev beating Usyk by a shutout in the 2012 Olympics.
I didn’t give Usyk one round, but it’s not surprising that he won the fight. He had a lot of hype surrounding him going into the Olympics, so Beterbiev had an uphill climb before the match even started.
Bivol can outbox Beterbiev
“He has the ability and has the potential and the mindset to beat a guy like Beterbiev,” said Ward of Bivol. “You know Bivol is going to box, that’s going to be his game plan, and I think he can outbox Beterbiev.”
Bivol can outbox Beterbiev during stretches, but he’ll have a difficult time doing that for the full 36 minutes. What makes Bivol so good defensively is the head movement that he uses, but that won’t help him against Beterbiev’s body punching. As we saw in Beterbiev’s last fight against Gvozdyk, he’s an incredible body puncher, and he may be the best in the sport.
Bivol would need to think about not just avoiding headshots, but also keep from getting hit to the body by Beterbiev. That’ll be difficult for Bivol to do for 12 rounds without getting hit a lot to the midsection by Beterbiev. Those punches will slowly weaken Bivol and could see a late stoppage.
Ward: Beterbiev will be hard to beat
“I’m not a guy that normally leans towards a puncher,” said Ward. “I’m a guy that wants a fighter to have multiple things he can fall back on in case that punch doesn’t bail him out. But Beterbiev is a little bit different. I’ve called his fights, watched him, and studied him. He’s different.
“He throws his body into every punch. He’s physically a hard man, and he’s strong. He hits extremely hard, and he doesn’t even have to hit you clean. He can graze you, and you can have problems. But he’s also an underrated boxer.
“He [Beterbiev] has over 300 amateur fights, and he comes up from the Soviet system. He’s a lot better skillfully than people give him credit for him, and he’s going to be a hard guy to beat,” said Ward on Beterbiev.
Ward has a lot of respect for Beterbiev after watching what he did to former WBC light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk last year with his 10th round knockout win.
Can Bivol handle Beterbiev’s pressure?
Beterbiev’s relentless pressure style of fighting will put Bivol in a spot where he’ll need to move continuously, and that’s not going to be easy. Bivol’s toughest fights as a pro have come against Jean Pascal and Sullivan Barrera. Both fighters took it to him and forced him to stay on the move. Those were not thrilling fights to watch by any means, as Bivol wasn’t willing to stand and punch with Barrera and Pascal.
Bivol will do well until Beterbiev starts wearing him down with body shots, and this fight could play out similarly as the Beterbiev-Gvozdyk clash.
On paper, Bivol gives Beterbiev his toughest fight in the division right now. There are some excellent younger fighters like Joshua Buatsi coming up the pipeline, but he’s not ready for Beterbiev or Bivol.