Dmitry Bivol, who defeated Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, may have secured the title of Fighter of the Year after defeating Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in May. Bivol needed a decisive victory to keep his WBA light heavyweight title.
Ramirez has had success throughout his career by being an aggressive fighter who applied a lot of pressure and delivered a lot of punches. Ramirez rarely let go of Bivol, even when the latter allowed himself to be caught in the ropes, therefore this aggression was rarely on display. Ramirez resisted getting involved in those exchanges, and Bivol would punch and circle away.
Bivol employed his standard strategy, maintaining a strong defensive shell to block incoming blows and working from a sharp jab. Using the jab as a blinding weapon, Bivol would then unload strong right hands that regularly struck cleanly to Ramirez's face.
In the final three rounds, Ramirez did try to exert more pressure, but Bivol's slick and effective style of play still allowed the Russian to win the majority of the exchanges. Even in the decisive round, when Ramirez needed to be knocked out, Bivol unleashed a barrage of flurries that seemed to energize Ramirez.
"You know, the lion is not the biggest animal in the jungle," Bivol said after the fight of his ability to force Ramirez to go backward. "But he's king. Yeah, Zurdo is bigger than me but it doesn't matter."
Ramirez was disappointed with the outcome since he had long lobbied for a bout with Bivol and believed he had what it took to become the first person to beat Bivol and claim a world title in the second weight class of his career.
Bivol's final scores were 118-110, 117-111, and 117-111, bringing his lifetime record to 21-0. Ramirez lost for the first time in his career, dropping to 44-1.
Bivol is in a fortunate situation right now, with what appear to be two major fights on the horizon. Bivol has stated that facing Artur Beterbiev, who currently holds the WBC, WBO, and IBF championships is his main priority to establish an undisputed champion at light heavyweight. As Beterbiev appears committed to a scheduled contest with Anthony Yarde in early 2023, Bivol may decide to take on Alvarez in a rematch that would yield significant financial benefits.
Bivol stated his intention to fight Beterbiev as soon as possible despite the profile and money that come with the Alvarez rematch.
"I proved myself. I can beat the best guy in the world," Bivol said. "And now, I beat another guy who doesn't know what losing is. I have another goal, I want to be undisputed champion. But everything is not up to me. It doesn't depend only on me who I fight next. We have to agree as a team on which is better for us. But I hope they will listen to me and what I want."
When asked if he would accept the rematch against Alvarez if Beterbiev couldn't fight until the second half of 2023.
"Of course, but I'm like a kid who has a dream," Bivol said. "I want to go to this dream. My heart wants it but my brain and my mind understand how things are going. I want to fight for another belt. If I don't have this chance in four or five months, I will take another fight."