Dmitry Bivol produced a performance of a lifetime as he inflicted a brutally one-sided victory to defeat boxing’s pound-for-pound best Canelo Alvarez on an historic night in Las Vegas.
After bulldozing his way through the super-middleweight division – becoming undisputed champion last year – Canelo set himself another monumental challenge as he stepped up to light-heavyweight to take on WBA (Super) champion Bivol.
But Canelo’s latest challenge proved a step too far, as Bivol danced his way to a unanimous decision victory, with all three judges scoring the bout 115-113 in the Russian’s favour.
Dmitry Bivol beat Canelo Alvarez by unanimous decision to retain his light-heavyweight belt
Canelo suffered just the second defeat of his career, his first since Floyd Mayweather in 2013
Canelo had climbed to 175lb once before in his highly-decorated career, defeating Bivol’s Russian compatriot Sergey Kovalev in stunning fashion
But in Bivol, Canelo found himself against a legitimate light-heavyweight champion, one who remained undefeated as he moved to 20-0, as the Mexican suffered just the second defeat of his career, the first since Floyd Mayweather Jr all the way back in 2013.
Canelo – who had a rematch clause in the contract – confirmed his intention to activate the option immediately after the fight, with Bivol too insisting he wants to take on boxing’s biggest superstar once more.
It means the Mexican’s plans to square off against Gennady Golovkin for a third time are now perhaps on hold, with promoter Eddie Hearn previously stating a September showdown would only transpire should Canelo emerge victorious against Bivol.
Bivol celebrated his stunning victory in the immediate aftermath
A dejected Canelo insisted he will activate the contractually-agreed rematch clause, however
Both fighters took centre-ring as the first bell sounded, and though Canelo often starts slowly it was the Mexican who looked to take the early initiative, throwing in hooks as he attempted to break the high guard of Bivol.
And though scoring an uppercut – his best punch throughout – to see off the first round, it was immediately evident that this would be no easy feat, with Bivol’s significant height and reach advantage evident from the off.
Bivol upped the tempo in round two, quintessentially sticking behind the jab, one he expertly crafted throughout a stunning amateur career, with the swift-footed Russian maintaining the distance to stay out of range.
As the rounds progressed, it was Bivol who started to pin Canelo back, a rare sight inside the squared circle, hurting Canelo with a massive five-punch combination as he built a healthy lead come the midway point.
Canelo was unable to overcome the significant height and reach advantage Bivol possessed
The Mexican grew increasingly frustrated throughout, even lofting Bivol over his shoulder
Bivol was relentless with the jab and out-landed Canelo by 152 punches to 84 throughout
From round seven, Canelo was routinely dropping his hands in frustration, attempting to draw a stubborn Bivol in. The Russian – known for his discipline – stuck to his game plan, however, remaining composed throughout.
Canelo’s long-term trainer Eddy Reynoso instructed his fighter to ‘use your experience’ as the business end of the fight approached, but it was Bivol who looked the established champion, with the Mexican growing increasingly weary as the fight drew to a close.
Perhaps symbolically, the fight ended with Canelo pinned to the ropes – where he spent much of the evening – with Bivol out-landing the Mexican 152-84 throughout.
The fight finished with Canelo pinned to the ropes, with Bivol maintaining his dominance
Speaking in the immediate aftermath, Bivol insisted he had proven himself to the masses following a dazzling display. He also apologised for ruining Canelo’s pre-fight plans.
‘I’m sorry I broke your plans with Gennady Golovkin, maybe,’ he said. ‘Thank you Canelo and his team. He’s a great champion and I respect him. I respect all his team.’
‘If you don’t believe in yourself, what do you do? You’ll achieve nothing,’ Bivol continued. ‘I believed. My team believed me. And you all should believe in yourself to achieve what you want.
‘He beat my arm up, but not my head, which is better. He has good speed, good power.’
Canelo, meanwhile, insisted the rematch is next. ‘Of course I do,’ he said when asked if he wanted to go again. ‘This can’t end like this.’