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Dmitriy Bivol Is Back, Saturday in Saudi

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Dmitriy Bivol Is Back, Saturday in Saudi

Dmitry Bivol finally returns to the ring for the first time in over thirteen months, on Saturday.

Kyrgyzstan-born WBA Light Heavyweight champ Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) faces Lyndon Arthur (23-1, 16 KOs) of Manchester, England this Saturday, December 23, 2023 as part of boxing mega-event Day of Reckoning.

It’s taking place in Saudi Arabia as part of the Riyadh Season celebration, and streaming on DAZN PPV and PPV.com, 2pm E.T.

Arthur, currently ranked 8th Light Heavyweight 1 by the WBA, is an accomplished fighter, his only loss coming by knockout to Anthony Yarde in their December 4, 2021 rematch.

Arthur is, no doubt, a worthy opponent, but is Bivol vs Arthur the fight boxing fans want to see?

The answer: not really.

Bivol Vs Zurdo

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates: Dmitry Bivol vs Gilberto Zurdo Ramirez, WBA Light Heavyweight World Title. 5 November 2022 Picture By Mark Robinson Matchroom Boxing

The light heavyweight bout fans have been clamoring for ever since Bivol defeated Saul “Canelo” Alvarez is the unification fight between Dmitry Bivol and Artur Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs).

Arthur, however, is not interested if he is the opponent fans want, because what matters is he is the opponent that fans got.

He has his own reasons for traveling to the largest city in Saudi Arabia and attempting to take Bivol’s belt away from him.

Lyndon Arthur plans to win, and dedicate his victory to his late older brother, who, tragically, was a victim of gun violence in May 2002.

Where’s Dmitriy Bivol Been?

2022 was the biggest year of Bivol’s career in terms both financially and of visibility.

Following his defeat of first Alvarez on May 7, 2022, and utter domination of Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez (45-1, 30 KOs) on November 5, 2022, Bivol reached a zenith of popularity and marketability.

And then… he disappeared.

Why? And at 33 years old, can he even afford to take off an entire year from boxing?

Several factors, many out of Bivol’s control, are to blame. First and foremost was an inability to schedule a rematch between him and Canelo.

The main disagreement was Canelo wanted the rematch to be set at 175 pounds, the same weight as the first bout.

Bivol, however, was more interested in going down to meet Canelo at 168 pounds, due to the fact that if he defeated Alvarez again, that would make him Undisputed Super Middleweight champion.

Other reports suggest Bivol was further to blame for the rematch not happening, due to pricing himself out financially. Bivol has been quoted saying “I don’t need this [rematch] with Canelo. Maybe to earn money, but it’s not my main [goal].”

Canelo Vs Bivol

Fans would like to see Canelo-Bivol 2. Photo by Ed Mulholland/Matchroom

Bivol vs. WBC

The other fight an overwhelming majority of fans wish to see is Bivol against IBF, WBC, and WBO Light Heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev.

They are arguably the top two Light Heavyweights in the world, and both wish to unify the belts of their division for their respective legacies.

Complicating the unification is WBC president Mauricio Sulaiman, who claims Bivol is ineligible to compete for the WBC belt as part of sanctions against Russian and Belarusian fighters in light of the war in Ukraine.

This ruling seems unfair and arbitrary for the following reasons:
1. Born in the Russian republic of Dagestan, which at the time was part of the Soviet Union, WBC champ Artur Beterbiev is just as Russian as Bivol.
2. Dmitry Bivol, who trains in southern California, did not invade Ukraine.

Arthur (not Artur)

Bivol, a -2500 favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook, is the favorite to win on Saturday, but Lyndon Arthur is used to facing adversity, and surprising spectators.

Even in his last fight against Braian Suarez, mere months ago on September, 1, 2023, Arthur overcame an early knockdown to win a 10th round knockout by bodyblow.

“It wasn't my best performance,” Arthur told ESPN’s Nick Parkinson, “but I showed what I had to do to get the win, I showed I could get up and stop him. I showed I've got that in me, that I can get off the floor if need be.”

Arthur has experienced setbacks in his 32 years, both personal and professional.

A defining moment for him came at 10 years old when his older brother Zennen Blackburn was murdered. Blackburn, a father of two, was just 27 at the time. His killers were never caught.

After seven years of trying to process the trauma of losing his brother (also a boxer), Arthur turned to boxing himself.

Doing so may have saved his life, and Saturday in Riyadh is the biggest fight of his life. Should he prevail and become the new WBA champion, Arthur plans to dedicate the victory to his late brother.

Are there keys to victory Lyndon Arthur has against Bivol?

The short answer: probably not.

Betting odds are not selected at random, and other than the proverbial “puncher’s chance,” Arthur’s prospects this weekend do not look terrific.

He does, however, have an advantage in two variables that could plausibly give him a conceivable chance against Bivol: activity and focus.

Bivol has been largely inactive, and, as mentioned above, has not fought since November 5, 2022.

Between then and now, Arthur has been very active, having fought and won three times since Bivol’s last fight.

Underdog Lyndon Arthur

The underdog Arthur

Saturday’s match against Bivol will be Arthur’s fourth fight in a nearly calendar year. Staying busy is an asset to any fighter, and it is currently an advantage that Arthur has and Bivol does not.

Arthur is also very focused on winning the championship, and honoring his brother. No one knows what sort of headspace Dmitry Bivol is in.

Since defeating Ramirez, Bivol has mostly only been heard from when discussing fights that failed to happen, such as the Canelo rematch, and a unification against Beterbiev.

Even more troubling are reported events in his personal life this year, such as a divorce from his wife of sixteen years, as well as allegations of domestic violence against her.

Personal and/or legal troubles, cloudy focus, and inactivity-driven ringrust could plausibly lead to a perfect storm allowing Lyndon Arthur to defeat Dmitry Bivol. Will it happen? Who knows.

But the entire world will watch and learn this Saturday… on the Day of Reckoning.