Canelo vs. Bivol: A Step Too Far Facing Fresh Light Heavy?

Many experts across the boxing landscape assumed that Canelo would stay at 168 for a little while longer instead of jumping up to light heavyweight to face Dmitry Bivol.

Staying at super middleweight seemed to make sense with possible fights against Jermall Charlo, David Benavidez, and Gennadiy Golovkin. But Canelo Alvarez bucked that notion for his next fight this Saturday.

Golovkin is still on the table for September as long as Canelo gets through Bivol with a victory and is injury-free. This bout will be broadcasted on DAZN PPV and available at a discounted price with a DAZN subscription.

Normally a boxer will wait to go up in weight until a money fight presents itself or for legacy. Well, it’s not money as the main factor, as we know, given the offer Al Haymon made to Canelo to fight Charlo and Benavidez. And it’s not like Canelo is done with the 168-pound weight class considering what’s next. It’s interesting; not all that long ago, Canelo claimed that was his best weight and that he felt slow at 175 versus Sergey Kovalev. Obviously, winning another belt at light heavyweight over a quality boxer adds to his resume.

That Alvarez/Kovalev fight can be used as a decent example of what could play out in the right on Saturday. This boxing podcaster believes Sergey was a better fighter than Bivol prime for prime. Although Bivol has a few nice wins over Joe Smith Jr., Sullivan Barrera, and a long-faded Jean Pascal, I would favor Kovalev both in the ring and resume-wise. Beyond that, Kovalev does have a solid power jab, something that Bivol uses a lot minus the same power. Kovalev managed to contain and compete right with Canelo to an extent, of course, which is evident when it comes to compubox and somewhat surprisingly on the scorecards. No matter how you slice it, Sergey was in that fight and had a fair amount of success with his jab.

Clearly, Kovalev was not in his prime, and it would appear that Dmitry Bivol is smack-dab in his prime physically, mentally may be another story. Think about if this fight took place in the 2018-19 timeframe. I believe more folks would give a legit chance of winning this fight. Sure some of it would be the unknown of Canelo fighting at 175, but a couple of years ago, Bivol was more willing to power punch. Nowadays, Bivol uses his jab with that in-and-out style so much that it draws a red flag. Ever since his bout with Sullivan Barrera, along with getting hurt against Joe Smith Jr., Bivol is a different fighter. He seemed more than troubled when targeted to the body, and his first instinct when hurt was to shell up.

Bivol has the fundamentals down pat. His stance is the stereotypical euro stand-up style, and yes, I know he’s from Russia. He does have good footwork, using it to dip in and out more recently. Something that stands way out is that Bivol does a great job of keeping his right hand up and head movement in general. Bivol can punch on the move, and circling Canelo using more lateral movement than normal as long as he’s active would likely be productive. But just using the jab mostly and not throwing his sharp left hook would be a mistake. Instead of over-fainting and doubling up on his jab, Bivol should make sure to follow up his jab with right hands. On paper, Bivol has a real chance to be in this fight late if he puts it all together in a complete performance.

Look for Canelo to attack the body early and often once the feel out stuff early in the fight is over. Before his second bout with Gennadiy Golovkin, Canelo was more of a counter puncher who set up his offense attack by jabbing, sometimes over-jabbing. Canelo doesn’t necessarily throw a bunch of combinations as he did when he was very young. Currently, he’s been willing to lose the early frames taking his time in an effort to land telling blows. I think he may have to change that up a bit and look to use his jab a tad more. Of course, a smart boxer like Bivol can counter a jab and use it against Canelo.

In the first couple of rounds, Bivol will land his jab and score enough points to get a lead. Another key for Bivol will be if he can catch and shoot; actually, it could be a key for both men. This could play out to be a chess match not fought at high speeds. Although I enjoy a measured pace featuring a ‘skills-fest,’ the style could be considered a snoozer to some in spots, given the style matchup. If the pace is where both men like to fight at, it will favor Canelo. Matter of fact, if Bivol is not willing to throw that short left hook, straight right hands, or whatever power punch, it could be very slow action for portions of this fight.

In the end, the body punching from Canelo combined with Bivol being susceptible to overhand rights will tell the story. Let’s reserve the scenario where Bivol is able to build on what Kovalev accomplished before getting his lights turned out. Remember, if Canelo does feel slow or sluggish, it could come back to haunt him. Just three fights in a little over three years heading into his most difficult opponent to date is a tough row to hoe. That fact and Bivol being hesitant on offense has me leaning in Canelo’s favor.

My Official Prediction is Canelo Alvarez by Majority Decision.

Written by Chris Carlson Host/Producer of The Rope A Dope Radio Podcast Available at & Follow on Twitter @RopeADopeRadio