DMITRY BIVOL: THE BOXING STORY WE DON’T KNOW YET
Dmitry Bivol is really good.
So good in fact that within three years of being a professional boxer he held the WBA light heavyweight title, albeit after the champion Badou Jack vacated the title after perusing a more lucrative bout with Adonis Stevenson for the WBC light heavyweight world title. That being said, that doesn’t happen often.
Bivol is a complex and interesting character as the Russian boxer, who is a mixed raced fighter with a Moldovan father and a Korean mother. An interesting twist to the typical Russian story as a whole since Bivol is a man who defies the traditional “Ivan Drago” notion of what a Russian boxer is, since visually he looks more Korean than Drago.
Bivol had an extensive amateur career winning 268-15 picking up a gold medal at the St Petersburg World Combat Games as well as a bronze at the youth world championships in 2008.
Bivol spent time in the semi-pro world of World Series of Boxing before transitioning to the pros. It seemed Bivol was in line for big things as he had Vadim Kornilov managing him, one of the best in boxing as well as a major promoter Main Events backing him.
Yet, It feels like Bivol had the misfortune of coming about four years too late as Bivol is the prototypical HBO boxer, Eastern European decorated amateur with brutally knockout power that the likes of HBO Boxing’s Jim Lampley would put together legendary monologues for. Instead, Bivol is fighting on the second to last HBO Boxing card, ever (well for now) in Atlantic City, New Jersey, a place the American Recession of 2008 hit as hard as anywhere in the world, two days after a major U.S. holiday, Thanksgiving. In short, much like a lot of his run on top, he is seemingly buried, despite being a main eventer.
For a blue-chip, potential future star of boxing, it feels as though being talented and entertaining hasn’t been enough for Bivol. You can pick apart his resume to a degree even his title win over Trent Broadhurst might merit shoulder shrugs, but after that, he has fought as good of competition as anyone in the division with maybe the exception being Badou Jack.
Bivol defeated Sullivan Barrera by way of a twelfth round knockout in March of this year followed by an August win over Isaac Chilemba, this weekend’s bout against Jean Pascal will be his third of the year and ranks him up there in terms strength of schedule for the year with unified cruiserweight champion Aleskander Usyk, WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder and lower weight superstar Naoya Inoue.
The big thing I have noticed is as HBO has moved out of boxing promoters like Main Events, who got a large chunk of their television dates from HBO, we have seen their fighters fall into the background since HBO isn’t interested in selling/building new fighters, since they’re not invested in sport anymore.
Bivol is tragically, the case study.
An interesting fighter who loves a lead 45, hybrid uppercut hook, followed by an overhand right in which his back is completely used in the punch along with tremendous foot speed and various speeds his punches coming at his foe makes him a difficult opponent for most. It might be the language barrier, yet as Steve Kim wrote, Bivol does speak English, though not a lot more than most might think.
It seems that the big problem so far is no one has found the true story of Bivol. The typical tropes don’t fit.
To me, from the outside looking in, what makes Bivol, a worthy watch beyond the high-quality production value of HBO and a world title being on the line, is the sacrifice he is making. Bivol’s life for the most part is in Russia, yet he comes to the United States simply for boxing, but the motivations for me are still unclear. I understand he wants to be the best, but it takes a special individual to live in isolation to pursue a dream, and that is what is so interesting.
How many people would give up stuff they enjoy, the ability to easily walk through a store, buy groceries, see your family, just to see if you’re the best at something? I think the answer is not many.
This Saturday, Bivol will face former world champion Jean Pascal, a fighter who has had highs and lows, and more or less, overachieved throughout his career. Pascal is known as the man to hand Chad Dawson his first loss when Dawson was a pound-for-pound fighter, that win got him two bouts with Bernard Hopkins, a win over Lucian Bute, two fights with pound-for-pound fighter Sergey Kovalev, current WBO light heavyweight champion Eleider Alvarez and recently upset win over Ahmed Elbiali, a prospect many thought highly of, that gave Pascal new life. Pascal retired after the Elbiali fight, but was pulled out of retirement for a bout with ex-UFC fighter Steve Bosse and now for a world title shot against Bivo.
The exception is clear, Bivol should win, and Bivol more than likely will stop Pascal at this point in Pascal’s career if Bivol is what we believe he is, but Bivol is one of the more compelling mysteries in boxing since at only fourteen fights, he could be arguably the best light-heavyweight in the world, which is quite interesting since three years ago, he was fighting on Roy Engelbrecht’s Fight Club OC, club show, in Costa Mesa, CA.
Bivol is an enigma with no one yet, really bring to light who he is just yet, the closest being this Andre Ward HBO interview. As we as fight fans, like this country as well, seem to divide, Bivol will be an interesting case study to follow.
Bivol returns this Saturday at the Hard Rock in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which will be broadcast on HBO, which will be the second to last card, the network will do for the foreseeable future.