Pound-for-pound king Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez returns seeking more gold as he moves up in weight to take on WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday night (Sunday morning SA time), writes Quintin van Jaarsveld.
Canelo Alvarez (1.19) v Dmitry Bivol (4.35) (WBA World Light Heavyweight Championship)
5 AM Sunday SA time
The hunger that drove a young Alvarez to rise up the ranks and become the best pound-for-pound boxer on the planet remains unquenched.
At 31, the Mexican superstar sits at the summit of the sweet science. He’s already one of the most decorated boxers in history, a legend and one of the all-time greats.
He’s won more titles – across four weight classes – and made more money than he can count and yet, his desire burns as bright as it did when he knocked out Abraham Gonzalez in his pro debut back in 2005.
He trains with the same single-minded dedication and determination as he did back then to ensure he not only stays at the top of the mountain, but reaches unthinkable new heights.
He did exactly that last November when he broke the iron will of previously unbeaten Caleb Plant in the penultimate round of their historic clash to immortalise himself as the first-ever undisputed super middleweight champion.
Now, as he continues his quest to redefine dominance in the sport, he has his sights set on expanding his empire by becoming the undisputed 175-pound champion.
Phase one of that mission is seizing the WBA strap from Bivol to set up a unification bout with the winner of WBC and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev’s June fight with WBO titleholder Joe Smith Jr.
Unbeaten in his 19-fight career with 11 knockouts, Bivol carries the type of power that’ll have the smaller Alvarez’s respect, but he’s a tactician rather than a berserker.
The 31-year-old’s been able to dictate fights with his movement and technique en route to successfully defending his title nine times and has been content with winning on the scorecards in recent years.
With his last six wins dating back to 2018 all coming by decision, he’s copped criticism for playing it safe, but he won’t have a second to spare or room to breathe against the predatory pursuer that is Alvarez. He’ll have no other option but to fight fire with fire and take a few risks he normally wouldn’t.
No one walks their opponent down with the confidence and relentlessness of Alvarez. He has an unmatched aura, one developed by seeking and destroying fighters across four weight classes. Whether the man on the other side of the ring is bigger or smaller, it doesn’t matter, Alvarez is a high-skilled hunter looking for the kill.
His remarkable record reads 57 wins – 39 by knockout – with just 1 defeat – to Floyd Mayweather back in 2013 – and two draws. He stopped his last three opponents, all of them undefeated titleholders at the title, on his march to super middleweight supremacy and he’s looking to continue that trend.
Along with his overwhelming pressure, power and precision, Alvarez has a world of experience at the highest level. This marks the 16-year veteran’s 61st fight and the astonishing thing is, he’s only now in his prime.
Bivol, by comparison, only has seven years of pro boxing experience under his belt and this 20th career bout is worlds removed from anything he’s ever experienced.
Alvarez is several levels above anyone he’s fought and the magnitude of fighting the number one pound-for-pound boxer in the world is unmatched. That the fight falls over Cinco de Mayo weekend makes it even more daunting.
The last time Alvarez fought at light heavyweight, coincidently also against a Russian, he proved his power carries over as he stopped Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round to win the WBO title in 2019.
Bivol is less of a threat in the power department but his excellent footwork and exceptional jab should make him Alvarez’s sternest tests in years and see him go the distance. However, Alvarez will control the contest and his renowned power and counter-punching prowess will earn him a dominant decision victory.