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Dmitry Bivol mentally broke Gilberto Ramirez

Image: Dmitry Bivol mentally broke Gilberto Ramirez

By Dan Ambrose: Dmitry Bivol owes his victory over Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez last weekend to the way that he broke the bigger fighter mentally with his pressure, combination punching, and defensive ability.

With all the hype about Ramirez going into the fight, he proved to be pretty limited and not the guy that some boxing fans had thought he was.

WBA light heavyweight champion Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) started slow in the first four rounds, appearing to give away two of those rounds to Gilberto, but starting in the fifth, he ran away with the fight.

As Paulie Malignaggi points out, Ramirez (44-1, 30 KOs) failed to impose his huge size advantage over Bivol by being physical. That’s something that Ramirez, 31, should have at least tried to do because he was clearly behind in the second half.

Ramirez looked like he stopped trying to win in the later rounds, as he seemed to lack the confidence to try different things.

“This was one of the more highly anticipated fights of the year for the hardcore fans. For the casuals, this one may have slipped through the radar,” said Paulie Malignaggi on Paulie TV about last Saturday’s Dmitry Bivol vs. Gilberto Ramirez fight.

“Undefeated vs. undefeated, this was one that we were really looking forward to, especially with Bivol up his reputation by beating Canelo dominantly.

“Zurdo Ramirez had the reputation of being the boogeyman. 44-0, undefeated. A guy that was looked on as being avoided by a lot of the top light heavyweights.

“The oddsmakers had Bivol as a strong favorite, and the results of the fight showed that they were correct. Zurdo had never been in a big fight, even with the undefeated record and the dominant wins he had. There was always a question mark about him too.

“Bivol is always very good with his basics and fundamentals, but he doesn’t really complicate things. He throws a lot of straight punches, he likes to be first, and he likes to control the ring.

“That’s another thing about Eastern European fighters. They like to take command mentally of a fight. They like to fight a fight at a pace that they command, and make a fight in a style that they feel comfortable with where they dictate.

“They’re not always the most talented guys, but they’re the most disciplined mentally. It’s hard to break them even if you might be more gifted than them.

“I noticed early on that Zurdo, being the bigger guy, was a lot bigger than Bivol. I was thinking, ‘I wonder how this is going to play out?’ Bivol was holding his ground right away from the start.

“He wasn’t giving up a lot of ground defensively, and he was walking down the bigger Zurdo Ramirez the whole time. That’s a hint of what it is that a lot of Russian and Eastern European fighters do.

“They’ll try to impose that mental block in your head, and in this case, Zurdo Ramirez was such a bigger guy. A lot of guys might be taken aback by him being so big. I thought Zurdo was doing really good at changing the levels at times, throwing that up-jab from underneath, and trying to throw some uppercuts.

“Bivol was not intimidated and didn’t really get confused that much. I had it 2-2 after four rounds, and then Bivol kind of just running away with it. In that beginning part of the fight, you started to wonder if Zurdo, through that little confusion that he was given different looks.

“Bivol, the thing about him, he gives you one look. He seems like a simple fighter. Bivol doesn’t do a lot of crazy animated things. He’s a simple fighter. A lot of straight punches, but throws them in bunches, commands that ring and that real estate.

“He gets off first, and he has that boss mentality. In this fight, he wasn’t giving ground a lot. He was actually walking down Zurdo Ramirez, and that can sort of get into your head if you have a fighter that consistently does that. No matter what you’re doing, your opponent stays in your face and remains dangerous.

“Bivol likes to be first, and he likes to throw combinations. If he’s in punching range and in your face, you always have to be alert the whole time. This guy is constantly looking to get off and constantly has that mean streak. He’s looking to take control of the fight in any which way possible.

“The biggest regard is he’s playing that mental game of being in your face the whole time, and he stayed in Zurdo’s face the whole time. He didn’t make it sloppy, but he was in Zurdo’s face the whole time.

“As the fight went on, he was able to get off more combinations. The amount of punches in his combinations became larger. In the beginning, it was ones and one-twos.

“He was able to put Zurdo out of position because as the punches and combinations came in, Zurdo was tiring out a little bit, and he was putting himself back out of position.

“Bivol’s combinations, although simple, fast straight punches, started to become, instead of ones and twos, it started to become threes, fours, fives, and sixes. And, of course, that started to play on the mind of Zurdo.

“He wasn’t getting off as much.  He wasn’t even trying at a certain point to even to take control back of the fight by being a little physical. I thought Zurdo could have been a little more physical and tried imposing himself on Bivol and tried pushing him back in some other way.

“The fact that Bivol was backing up Ramirez eliminated all the positive things that Zurdo has in his style. I think if Zurdo is not getting backed up and he’s sort of comfortable. I think he’s a guy that can sort of get in more of a creative mode.

“He has a good trainer in Julian Chua, who I know comes up with good combinations and things to work on. I think being backed up took away a lot of those possibilities from Zurdo Ramirez.

“That’s a credit to Bivol. When a fighter does that and takes command of a fight. No matter how dangerous his opponent is, if he’s backing him up, a lot of guys are a completely different fighter.

“Bivol did this. He threw combinations in bunches and stayed the boss of the fight. Zurdo never really took control of the fight, and after the first four or five rounds, it never looked like Zurdo was going to be in the fight.

“He let Bivol be in command of the fight. I don’t think anybody was ever really hurt in the fight, but you could tell that Bivol got into Zurdo’s head. He didn’t fold, but he folded the advantages to Bivol.

“He sort of accepted the fact that Bivol was going to command the pace and command the way this fight goes. From that point on, the fight was not competitive. It was interesting to watch.

“You’re wondering that Zurdo, with all this big light heavyweight, was a southpaw and was going to find a way to make this competitive once Bivol has gotten into his head. But he never did that,” said Bivol.

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