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Canelo Alvarez will be facing a capable opponent in light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol in a pay-per-view bout Saturday in Las Vegas.
We’ve described the Mexican star’s foes that way in the past, though. And we know what generally happens in the fights: Alvarez patiently dissects his opponent, breaks him down and ultimately wins a clear decision or scores a late knockout.
Could this fight turn out differently? It’s possible. Bivol is an excellent boxer and will have a natural size advantage. Alvarez might have to work particularly hard to employ his formula and have his hand raised. And who knows? Maybe we’re in for a surprise.
Here is a break down of the matchup.
CANELO ALVAREZ (57-1-2, 38 KOs)
VS. DMITRY BIVOL (19-0, 11 KOs)
Date: Saturday, May 7
Location: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Division: Light heavyweight
At stake: Bivol’s WBA title
Current win streak: Alvarez, 8; Bivol, 19
Ages: Both 31
Stances: Both orthodox
Trajectory: Alvarez at peak; Bivol at peak
Also fighting: Montana Love vs. Gabriel Valenzuela, junior welterweights; Scott Alexander vs. Zhang Zhilei, heavyweights; Shakhram Giyasov vs. Christian Gomez, welterweights; Joselito Velazquez vs. Jose Soto, flyweights
Worth watching (up to five stars)? * * * *
Alvarez has never been satisfied with the status quo, one reason he has evolved into one of the best boxers in the world. The Mexican star had unusual God-given ability when he turned pro at 15 years old in 2005. That allowed him to win consistently from the start. However, under the tutelage of Chepo and Eddy Reynoso, he has improved dramatically as the years have passed. Most notably he turned himself into an excellent defensive fighter, using head movement and uncanny anticipation. That, combined with his dangerous offensive arsenal, has made him a complete fighter.
Bivol cut his boxing teeth in the Russian amateur system, which gave him an outstanding fundamental foundation. That, combined with natural speed and athleticism, helped him progress rapidly as a professional. He has a good jab and terrific footwork, two reasons he has been able to take charge in most of his fights. And, like Alvarez, he’s difficult to hit cleanly. Don’t be surprised if Alvarez, normally an accurate puncher, has problems connecting consistently against Bivol for half of the fight or more. The native of Kyrgyzstan has that kind of boxing ability.
Alvarez has more knockouts (39) than many elite boxers have professional fights. However, that doesn’t mean he’s a knockout artist, at least not of the one-punch variety. He can hurt anyone with a single shot but generally needs to combine his punches – including a commitment to body work – to take elite opponents out.
Bivol isn’t a big puncher in spite of the fact he has stopped more than half his opponents. His career can be divided into two parts based on knockouts: He stopped 11 of his 13 opponents, none of his last six. That could be attributed to improved opposition, which typically results in fewer stoppages. Some believe he has been less committed to his power punches since Joe Smith Jr. hurt him four fights ago.
Alvarez compensated for a short amateur career by fighting 60 times over 16-plus years as a professional. And he has fought at the highest level of the sport for more than a decade, with a reported 19 major title fights on the biggest stages of the sport. Nothing fazes him because he has seen and done it all.
Bivol reportedly had 283 amateur fights (268-15), which provided valuable experience even though he wasn’t in the paid ranks. He faced every imaginable style and traveled extensively as part of the Russian team. And he has fought primarily elite opponents as a pro, which has given him added experience. One disadvantage: He has never taken part in a fight anywhere near as big as this one.
One reason Alvarez has enjoyed success is his chin. Jose Cotto, Miguel’s brother, stung Alvarez in the first round of their fight back in 2010. And Gennadiy Golovkin got his attention a few times in their fights. Otherwise, he has been a rock. And he has suffered no serious injuries, another indication of his unusual durability
Bivol reportedly has never been down in his 19 pro fights, which says something about his durability. And even when he was stung by Smith — one of the hardest punchers pound for pound — he recovered quickly, a testament to his fitness and recuperative powers. Alvarez certainly can’t punch as hard as Smith.
Alvarez will have an advantage over most fighters in this category. He has so much experience under the bright lights that it has become a non-factor for him. His longtime trainer, Eddy Reynoso, has evolved into one of the best in the business. The vast majority of spectators at T-Mobile Arena will be rooting for him. The list goes on.
Bivol has fought as a light heavyweight his entire pro career, giving him a natural size advantage over Alvarez. He also has a good, experienced trainer, Joel Diaz. The fact he’s based in Southern California means he won’t have to travel, which can be a disadvantage. And, as the underdog, he has nothing to lose. The pressure is on Alvarez, not him.
Bivol poses a legitimate threat to Alvarez. His combination of polished skills and size advantage is a one-two punch that could make the favorite’s life miserable and possibly topple him. That said, it’s impossible to pick against Alvarez. He has demonstrated dozens of times that he has the ability to figure out his opponents and ultimately dominate them, the result being one victory after another. That’s probably what we’ll see on Saturday.
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