It will soon be that time when the experts get ready to put forth their arguments for which fighter is deserving of picking up this year’s Fighter of the Year award. But, really, will there be any argument this year? Yes, there are still a few significant fights to come, fights that could conceivably influence how voters vote for their Fighter of the Year (tomorrow’s rubber match between Roman Gonzalez and Juan Francisco Estrada, for one example).
Yet it really does seem as though one man has got the FOTY award all sewn up. Dmitry Bivol had a sensational year. A sensationally impressive year. Bivol fought just twice (this one fight more than too many big-name fighters boxed, with the likes of Terence Crawford (who will box David Avanesyan on December 10), Anthony Joshua, Errol Spence, Deontay Wilder, and others making just one ring appearance here in 2022) – but how the unbeaten Russian boxing master made his two performances count.
Bivol shocked much of the world in May when he had far too much for Canelo Alvarez, with Bivol at times boxing his way, at times beating Canelo up on the way, to a decision victory that should have been way wider on the official cards than it was. Bivol dominated the biggest star in the sport in retaining his WBA light-heavyweight title. Bivol’s performance was just about flawless, and no fan of clever, smart, educated boxing could fail to have been impressed.
In his next fight, in November, Bivol gave us another masterclass. Facing another Mexican warrior in the huge-for-the-weight Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, this in a fight that plenty of us felt would be a tough affair for both men, Bivol instead dominated again, in the process turning Ramirez into a reluctant, gun-shy opponent. Bivol did everything aside from get the stoppage he at times looked close to getting. Ramirez had no clue on how to go about fighting the deceptively brilliant Bivol.
And that’s the thing about Bivol – he may not look spectacular in any one area, his record may not suggest he is a huge or hurtful puncher, and Bivol may not look like a beast of a fighter. But Bivol does everything well; he wastes nothing, he has a quite magnificent engine, his measures distance beautifully, and Bivol has fast hands, fast feet and he is blessed with a quicker than quick boxing brain. Can anyone point out a weakness in Bivol, 21-0(11)?
Two wins, one over a superstar, the other over a formidable, unbeaten, in-his-prime former champion. Bivol’s year was indeed a standout. Can you think of anyone else who is more deserving than him when it comes to who should be honored as 2022’s Fighter of the Year?
And 2023 could be even bigger for Bivol, a fighter who has achieved so much after just 21 pro bouts. There is that Canelo rematch (can Canelo possibly beat Bivol?), there is that nothing but mouth-watering, all-Russian unification clash with Artur Beterbiev, and there is also some talk of a Bivol-Jermall Charlo fight. Bivol, as special as he is, might not just win all three fights; he might win all three fights in dominant fashion.
For now, though, Bivol can look back with satisfaction as he views his work here in 2022. Not that Bivol will allow himself to be satisfied, let alone become complacent. A consummate pro, Bivol is always working, trying to improve on his already chink-free game. Bivol will probably be training hard over the Christmas holidays. That’s how dedicated he is.