It’s good to be the king and Canelo Alvarez is taking his royal status for a ride. The Mexican star and world’s top pound-for-pound boxer rolled up behind the wheel of a blue luxury sportscar on an 85-degree day to his San Diego news conference announcing his 2022 plans. Life doesn’t suck for the self-assured 30-year-old.
The undisputed, unified super middleweight champion from Mexico and San Diego resident (57-1-2, 39 KOs) had several options. Alvarez went with his friend Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing’s proposal for two fights in 2022. First up is a title fight on May 7 with WBA World Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol of St. Petersburg, Russia at the TMobile Arena in Las Vegas. Assuming wins, Alvarez will meet his nemesis Gennadiy Golovkin of Kazakhstan, for a third time, presumably at super middleweight.
Canelo: ‘A good challenge'
“I like the idea to go to 175, fight the second-best fighter in that division. For me it’s continuing to make history. That’s a good challenge for me,” said Alvarez.
“I believe in my skills. Every time when I come I the ring, I believe I can beat my opponent,” said Bivol. “Of course, he has a lot of fans, it makes him better than me on media. But he’s still a man, fighting in a lower category than me. Yes, he has power, but I have power too. He has skills, but my skills are good too.”
Bivol: ‘If I don't respect him, it's stupid to fight him'
Don’t expect any animosity or shade thrown. The two men respect each other. “Yes, I respect him. He’s the best opponent,” said Bivol of Alvarez. “All the world knows him. He’s proved he’s one of the best. He has a belt in four divisions. I respect him. If I don’t respect him it’s stupid to go to the ring and fight him.”
“He’s very talented. That’s why I picked him. He's a good challenge for me,” said Alvarez of Bivol. “He offers me a champion, and he’s a good fighter. I like that kind of challenge.
Both Alvarez and Bivol sat down for an exclusive interview prior to the formal announcement on March 2 with a handful of boxing media including NYFights.com. The two men couldn’t be coming from much different personal circumstances.
Alvarez has the boxing world by the tail. He knows it. He’s not arrogant about it, it’s simply a fact to him. He lives in a beautiful city with perfect weather where he can golf every day, with a beautiful family at his side and friends to party with when he’s got the time.
Bivol just arrived in the United States from Russia, where life is in turmoil. He leaves his wife and children plus extended family and friends behind to train for the next eight weeks, where he must focus away from home on the opportunity of a lifetime.
NYFights interview highlights: Canelo Alvarez
When critics complain about his choice of opponents: “Sometimes, everybody, you guys (the media) says ‘oh, you have to fight Canelo, Canelo, Canelo.’ Why don’t (potential opponents) fight each other? I’ll fight the winner of all of them. Simple. But you guys are always asking too much. I know I’m the best fighter. I’ve fought with the best fighters in the division. I just beat everybody at 168. You still say, ‘but you still need to fight…’ Why? It’s OK. Right now I can do whatever I want. I fight with the best champions. This time is no different.”
On facing Golovkin a third time: “We have this deal, they want the fight with Golovkin. So I say bueno, everybody wants the fight, right? Maybe a little late. Maybe no. Everybody still wants the fight, so why not?”
Does Alvarez still have bad blood with Golovkin? Yes. “He talks a lot of shit, he talks a lot of things. But we’re going to see. First things first, right? We need to win May 7. It’s a hard fight, not an easy fight for me. 100 percent I this fight, and then we’ll talk about this fight.” Does Alvarez think Golovkin will beat Ryota Murata on April 9? “I hope so. I hope so.”
Was Alvarez seriously considering fighting at cruiserweight: “So serious. But we can wait for that, right? This fight makes more sense for us right now. In the future, we’ll do that for sure. That’s a good idea for us. Right now, I really want to be undisputed at 175.”
NYFights interview highlights: Dmitry Bivol
Responding to critics of recent performances: “Maybe some people think those fights didn’t go the way I wanted or were the opponents I wanted. But they got me this fight. I’ll be in my best shape and ready on May 7 and perform my best. I think opponents changed. Some opponents don’t want to win when they come to the ring against me. Some opponents are just tough. I don’t think about finishing the fight by knockout. If you think about it, you forget about your combinations, your defense, your plan.”
How will he fight differently than Sergey Kovalev: “First of all, I’m not Sergey Kovalev. I’m a different fighter than Sergey. I talked to Sergey, he said he didn’t have enough time to prepare After seven rounds, he felt empty. I thought about it and worked on this.”
The mental preparation: “The mental game is very important overall. You can do a lot of preparations, combinations, planning and all that. If you’re not mentally believing you’re going to win, that takes about 40 percent of the possibility of actually winning the fight. The most important thing is getting in the ring in the right state of mind and believing in yourself.”
Bivol on political turmoil at home: First of all, I have a lot of friends in Ukraine. I have a lot of friends in Russia. My family is in Russia. I have friends everywhere. I wish them only peace and only the best. It’s really sad for me. Every day I wake up and read the news, and I hope it will stop.
“In a way, I try to stay away from it. I’ve always been out of politics and war is closer to politics. I’m not a politician or a professional to understand it. Now it’s kind of hard to ignore.
“My wife is there. My kids, my other friends, and family. They’re all waking up every morning, they’re talking to people in Ukraine, and all over the world. People right now are in a state of nervousness. They’re not accepting what’s happening. They’re not thinking about politics, they’re thinking about what they’re seeing. This is not something anybody enjoys and I hope this is over.
“Sometimes it gets me worried, but sports and politics have been separated and, it’s been historically that way and it should stay that way in my opinion as well. I don’t think it’s related in anyway. This is a sports competition between two fighters. It’s important to respect this. It’s not related to the other things happening right now in any way. I think a lot of people will support this.”
Here’s hoping the only combat either man must worry about is under the bright lights in the squared circle on May 7.