Bivol vs Zurdo: Bivol Fighter of the Year With a Victory?
Fresh off of a career-altering victory over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (58-2-2, 39 KOs), WBA Light Heavyweight Champion Dmitry Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) looks to pick up another marquee victory that could land him the honor of Fighter of the Year. Former WBO Super Middleweight Champion Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (44-0, 30 KOs) is hoping to derail any plans that Bivol has of either a Canelo rematch or an undisputed showdown with Unified Light Heavyweight Champion Artur Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs). The light heavyweight division has had a resurgence as of late and is back as one of the most talked about divisions in the sport. An undisputed matchup between the winner of this fight and Beterbiev is must watch TV and whoever comes out victorious would be ranked highly on everyone’s pound for pound lists.
Bivol has a very intriguing personality and a good sense of humor. I have enjoyed seeing him get more media attention since the Canelo win because he truly deserves it; he is a character that you have no choice but to like and respect. For as easygoing as he is outside of the ring, when he enters those ropes he is completely dialed in on the task at hand, which is beating whoever stands in front of him. Bivol faced three southpaws in a row in 2017, but that was five years ago and none of those three opponents are near the talent level of Zurdo Ramirez. Canelo is most certainly a bigger name than his countryman, but Zurdo is the much larger of the two and stylistically poses more of a threat to the title reign of Bivol.
Though Zurdo Ramirez is a former 168lb champion who moved up in weight to the 175lb division, he will be the much larger man in the ring come fight night. He stands at 6’3″ tall with a 75 inch arm reach, and will probably rehydrate higher than the cruiserweight limit of 200lbs. Bivol is 6 feet tall with a 72 inch reach, and will rehydrate much less than Ramirez and could be giving up over 15lbs on the day of the fight. Zurdo will be looking to use his physicality to his advantage and roughen up the highly skilled champion. I predict that the size, pressure, and southpaw style of Ramirez will be tricky for Bivol to get a read on in the early rounds. But as the fight progresses, Bivol should be able to use his boxing ability to frustrate Zurdo and pull away on the cards to win a decision. If Ramirez is able to take some of the early rounds and then use his size advantage to wear Bivol down in the later stages of the fight, then he has a good chance of scoring the upset.
There are a few fights on the undercard that also have my attention and that I will be watching on Saturday afternoon. There is an undisputed title fight in the co-main event, as Jessica McCaskill (12-2, 5 KOs) matches up against Chantelle Cameron (16-0, 8 KOs). McCaskill is the current undisputed welterweight champion and is looking to become a simultaneous two-division undisputed champion. Chantelle Cameron is the unified IBF and WBC champion, and a victory over McCaskill would give her a marquee name on her resume and a well deserved spot on most pound for pound lists. This is a true 50/50 matchup that I could see either women coming out victorious. This has been the greatest year in the history of women’s boxing, and we are being given another high quality matchup on the heels of the historic Shields vs Marshall card a few weeks ago.
There is one more title fight on the billing this weekend, as the vacant IBF 130lb title is on the line. Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov (16-0-1, 13 KOs) will clash with Zelfa Barrett (28-1, 16 KOs), with the winner becoming a world champion for the first time in his career. Rakhimov had a title shot in the past, as he drew with then champion Joseph “JoJo” Diaz (32-3-1, 15 KOs) in a fight where he showed that he belonged amongst the division’s elite. Barrett has picked up a few decent wins on recent Matchroom undercards, most notably a unanimous decision victory over Former Featherweight Champion Kiko Martinez (44-11-2, 31 KOs). This should be a competitive affair, but I have to favor Rakhimov to achieve his dreams of becoming a world champion. Joe Cordina (15-0, 9 KOs), who won the IBF title earlier this year, was forced to vacate his title due to injury and is in line to face whoever comes out on top.
2020 Olympic Flyweight Gold Medalist Galal Yafai (2-0, 2 KOs) is also in action on this undercard. He will be taking on Gohan Rodriguez Garcia (12-1-1, 1 KO) in a ten round contest for the WBC International Flyweight Title. This is Yafai’s third ten round fight in as many pro contests. He and promoter Eddie Hearn are attempting to fast track the 29-year-old and get him in twelve round fights as soon as possible. Galal’s older brother, Khalid Yafai (26-1, 15 KOs), is making his return to the ring this weekend as well, as he is back for the first time since losing his WBA Flyweight Title to the legendary Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (51-3, 41 KOs). He has had two years off since that devastating defeat, and is looking to make another run and revive his career. He is up against Jerald Paclar (16-5-3, 9 KOs), in a fight that should allow him to get back in the win column and help him build momentum as he starts this second phase of his career.
This card takes place at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi and will be streamed across the world on DAZN. The main card will begin at 1:30PM EST/10:30 PST, with the main event scheduled for approximately 5:00 PM EST/2:00 PM PST. With all of the marquee fights that have not come to fruition recently, it is a breath of fresh air to see two undefeated fighters in the prime of their careers putting it all on the line. If you consider yourself a boxing fan, you will not want to miss this event.