Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez has targeted a May return to the ring, after having surgery on his left wrist. The Mexican superstar is targeting a fight with recent conqueror Dmitry Bivol, who defeated him in a WBA light heavyweight championship fight last May. The ‘repeat or revenge’ tag makes this a highly-saleable fight, particularly given the fact both have won since. But for Bivol, the proposed fight might not be his best move.
In an ideal world, the brilliant Bivol would hold the cards. He is coming off a 2022 that should see him sweep the board as boxing publications hand out their end-of-year awards. After stunning ‘Canelo’, and the world, Bivol solidified his pound-for-pound credentials earlier this month. The Kyrgyzstan-born boxer was scintillating in a points win over unbeaten Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez in Dubai just under two weeks ago. One of the finest fighters on the planet, Bivol should be able to dictate terms.
However, it looks like the opposite will take place when it comes to Alvarez. Despite losing the first fight, ‘Canelo’ remains the biggest name in boxing. The undisputed super middleweight champion stepped up in weight and failed to capture Bivol’s WBA prize. Now reports suggest that Bivol will be asked to move down to 168-pounds for the rematch. For the Russian, this just doesn’t make sense.
Bivol has never fought at super middleweight in his 21-fight career. Meanwhile, Alvarez is unbeaten at the weight and last year he became the first four-belt champion in 168lb history. Hardly a level playing field. It is the sort of move a boxer usually only makes when they are devoid of options. But Bivol has options, one in particular that is preferable to a ‘Canelo’ rematch.
A fight with the man who holds the other three 175lb titles, Artur Beterbiev, is a far more attractive fight for Bivol at this point. Both men are unbeaten and stylistically they match up well. Beterbiev is the classic puncher, with every one of his 18 wins arriving by way of knockout. Bivol is the consummate boxer, using speed, distance and angles to befuddle his 21 victims.
Bivol has earned a Beterbiev fight. Why should he go over old ground instead? Why should he be the one sacrificing weight to accommodate ‘Canelo’? Sadly it’s that all too familiar refrain of “money talks”. To the committed boxing watcher, Bivol vs Beterbiev is a veritable feast. But to the casual fan, the people who tune in for five or six major cards a year, they know who ‘Canelo’ is. They don’t know Beterbiev and they likely couldn’t have named Bivol until he defeated Alvarez. In these situations, sadly the money-spinning mainstream attraction usually trumps the beautifully-matched aficionado’s choice.
If Bivol-’Canelo’ II does happen, which looks increasingly likely, the Russian should at least stand firm on the weight issue. If Alvarez wants revenge that badly, he can come back to light heavyweight to get it. After all, he is a former WBO champion in the division. This is not the equivalent of the fanciful talk about the Mexican fighting Oleksandr Usyk up at heavyweight. 175 lbs is doable for ‘Canelo’. Therefore, considering he lost the first bout, he can be the one to concede and make the weight again.
Despite the misgivings expressed here, a super middleweight title bout between the two feels like a distinct possibility. Like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao before him, ‘Canelo’ is the latest superstar boxer who is allowed to dictate terms when it comes to finer details like weight. Bivol might even convince himself it’s the right move, considering he could become a two-weight world champion for his troubles. But, with Beterbiev waiting in the wings, it would make far more sense at this stage to stand firm at light heavyweight, ‘Canelo’ or no ‘Canelo’.
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