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Canelo-Bivol: Is A Rematch Necessary?

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Canelo-Bivol: Is A Rematch Necessary?
Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

“A boxing robot.” That’s what Todd Grisham, the play-by-play announcer for DAZN called Dmitry Bivol last night, and for all my issues with DAZN’s often barely professional fight coverage, I’ll be damned if Grisham didn’t strike the nail flush on the noggin with that comment.

For twelve Canelo-maddening rounds, Bivol just kept doing the same thing over and over—jabbing to keep distance, picking his spots for flurries, and holding his seemingly impenetrable guard up for the entire fight. Almost every round was exactly the same. Canelo may have had his moments, but they were few and far between.

Always a slow starter who figures out his opponents in the early rounds, takes control in the middle, and then often crushes his competition down the stretch, Canelo never found a rhythm against Bivol—not for a single second of the fight. Honestly, if you just believed in the punch stats (nearly 2-1 in favor of Bivol), this should have been an easy fight to call. But I don’t think you needed the data to sort this one out. You could just look at Canelo’s marked up face and Bivol’s clean mug at the end of this scrap and sort out what happened. Both the numbers and your eyes should have led you to a clear conclusion:

However amazing it is to say it aloud, Dmitry Bivol dominated this fight.

Bivol's jab was a key to his unanimous decision victory over Canelo on Saturday night. Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Color analyst Sergio Mora gave the judges credit for unanimously scoring the fight for Bivol, but I find his praise too kind, because while they got the result right, they did so by the skin of their scorecards. All three judges turned in identical scores of 115-113 in a bout that anything closer than 116-112 is bordering on a travesty. If Canelo, who landed fewer blows in every single round would have been gifted just one more three-minute stanza, the fight would have been a draw—something I would argue would have done neither man any favors.

Bivol wouldn’t have been awarded his rightful historic victory, and Canelo would have been looked at like a thief—bringing forth the echoes of Canelo-GGG 1. Of course, it wouldn’t have been Canelo’s fault if the judges blew the fight, but boxing fans gonna boxing fan and the claims that the fight was rigged would have been rampant, and somehow aimed at Alvarez.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen—if only just. What did happen is a fighter with magnificent skill and technique (and even greater discipline) dominated the consensus, reigning pound-for-pound champion. And look, it’s fair to question if Canelo belongs at light heavyweight. His only other bout in that class was against a faded Sergei Kovalev, who he dispatched with great violence back in November of 2019. Maybe Canelo came up too far to take on an A-list opponent who is a natural light heavyweight.

Dmitry Bivol celebrates his win over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez after their WBA light heavyweight championship bout at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

Fine, but let’s not forget about the opponent. However unsexy his style and however lacking in charisma he might be, Dmitry Bivol beat the widely-viewed face of boxing’s face off last night—and it shouldn’t have been close. I have never seen a fighter (aside from Floyd Mayweather Jr.) frustrate Canelo so greatly. You could see it early in the fight when Bivol was tattooing Canelo against the ropes, and then (like he did throughout the fight), he pulled back from the exchange. Canelo all but begged Bivol to stay in and make a phone booth fight out of the evening, but Bivol never—not for even a moment—veered away from his gameplan.

The questions about Bivol were numerous before the fight. How would he hold up under the bright lights of this massive occasion? Could he handle Canelo’s power? Was he as good as his record? The answer to these three questions is an emphatic “yes.” In fact, if anyone is asking themselves any questions about Bivol now, they should really only be asking one:

Just how great is Dmitry Bivol? 

On the basis of last night, I’d say he’s pretty damn great.

During the post-fight interview, Canelo said he wanted a rematch and Bivol seemed more than happy to give it to him. I’m not sure if Canelo should want to take on Bivol again. This wasn’t a fight that was close or dramatic enough to necessarily warrant a rematch under normal circumstances. Often, when a fighter clearly outclasses another, they don’t lace ‘em up again for a second helping.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is interviewed by Chris Mannix after his loss to Dmitry Bivol after their WBA light heavyweight championship bout. Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland/Matchroom.

And make no mistake, that’s what happened last night—Dmitry Bivol outclassed Canelo Alvarez.

Styles make fights as the old adage goes, and as truly great as he is, Canelo could not solve Bivol’s style. I don’t know that any amount of reviewing the fight, changing up the training regimen, eating differently, or consulting a caster of spells will do anything for Canelo to make a second fight winnable.

That’s how great Dmitry Bivol was last night. He made a rematch with Canelo Alvarez feel superfluous.

It may be hard to wrap your mind around that last statement, but if you try, it’s even harder to think it isn’t true.