2022 Fighter-of-the-Year: Dmitry Bivol

01/13/2023 - By James Stillerman - Comments

Undefeated WBA light heavyweight world champion Dmitry Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) went 2-0 in 2022, as he scored an upset victory over the consensus pound-for-pound best fighter in the world Canelo “Saul” Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) in May, and then dominated former super middleweight titleholder and then unbeaten Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (44-1 30 KOs) in November to solidify his status as one of the best light heavyweight fighters, and one of the top ten pound-for-pound boxers in the world.

He not only beat four-division world titleholder Alvarez, who was a five-to-one favorite to win their bout, but he did it with surprising ease en route to a twelve-round unanimous decision. All three judges scored the fight for Bivol (115-113, 115-113, and 115-113) in a bout that did not appear as close as the scorecards indicated. Bivol needed to win the final round of the fight to avoid a draw, and somehow, Alvarez won the first four rounds on all three judges’ scorecards. Alvarez had not lost since 2013 (against one of the best fighters of all time, Floyd Mayweather Jr., who retired with an undefeated record, 50-0, 27 KOs) and was unbeaten in his last sixteen bouts.

Bivol landed almost twice as many punches as Alvarez and connected on more jabs and power shots. He outworked Alvarez with five to six punch combinations and was more accurate with his punches. Bivol landed double-digit punches in every round, while Canelo did it in two rounds. His footwork and tight defense (he blocked a lot of Alvarez’s punches on his gloves, arms, and left bicep, which was swollen and red at the end of the bout) prevented Alvarez from landing his power shots. Alvarez connected on 84 punches, a career low for him in a twelve-round bout.

He then cruised to a one-sided twelve-round unanimous victory (118-110, 117-111, and 117-111) over Ramirez, who had scored five consecutive knockouts over light heavyweight fighters. Bivol’s jabs and combination punches landed at will, and his punching speed and high work rate prevented Ramirez from getting into any offensive rhythm. Ramirez also did not help himself, as he tried to outbox Bivol instead of brawling with him, despite being the bigger, stronger boxer.

Bivol successfully defended his WBA belt for the eighth and ninth time and did it against two opponents with a combined record of 101-1-2, 69 KOs. He hopes to fight IBF/WBC/WBO light heavyweight world titleholder Arthur Beterbiev (18-0, 18 KOs) later this year (assuming he beats former world title challenger Anthony Yarde on January 28th) to unify the division.

Runner Ups:

Jesse “Bam” Rodriguez (17-0, 11 KOs) obtained three victories in 2022 with wins over WBC super flyweight champion Carlos Cuadras (39-5-1, 27 KOs), former two-time world champion Srisaket Sor Rungvisai (50-6-1, 43 KOs), and former three-time world challenger Israel Gonzalez (28-5-1, 11 KOs). He knocked Cuadras down in the third-round en route to a twelve-round unanimous decision in February to become the youngest active world champion at twenty-two. Rodriguez took the fight on a week’s notice (after Rungvisai could not fight due to an illness), moved up two divisions, and fought the best opponent of his career. He then scored an eight-round technical knockout over Rungvisai in June and obtained a twelve-round unanimous decision over Gonzalez in September for two successful world title defenses. Rodriguez announced in October that he would vacate his super flyweight title and move down to the flyweight division, where he will fight Christian Gonzalez (19-4, 15 KOs) on April 8th for the vacant WBO title.

WBC lightweight world champion Devin Haney (29-0, 15 KOs) defeated George Kambosos Jr. (20-2, 10 KOs) twice via one-sided twelve-round unanimous decisions in Kambosos’ home country of Australia in June and October. Haney obtained the WBA/IBF/WBO lightweight title to become the eighth undisputed world champion (and the first undisputed lightweight titleholder) in the four-belt era with the first victory. He successfully defended his world titles when Kambosos exercised his rematch clause from the first bout. Haney is in talks to fight three-division world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko (17-2, 11 KOs) in May.

Naoya Inoue (24-0, 21 KOs), the WBA/WBC/IBF bantamweight world titleholder and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, won both of his bouts last year by knockouts. He defeated four-division world champion Nonito Donaire (42-7, 28 KOs) in a highly anticipated rematch from their 2019 Fight-of-the-Year via a second-round technical knockout in June. He scored a knockdown in the first round. Inoue then obtained an eleventh-round knockout over WBO world champion Paul Butler (34-3, 15 KOs) in December to become the ninth undisputed world titleholder (and the first undisputed bantamweight champion and the first Japanese fighter) in the four-belt era.