Is Dmitry Bivol too good for his own good?
The best boxer of 2022 hasn’t returned in 2023, yet after two of the biggest wins of his career and a historic year, Bivol has no fight date scheduled.
The big question remains - why?
Minor details we are in the seventh month of the year, and when you read this it might even be the eighth month. Bivol is now rumored to return in October, which would be eleven months after his second marquee win of last year when he defeated Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez, a loss that Ramirez has yet to make a return to the ring from, as Ramirez attempted to fight Gabriel Rosado, but came in so overweight the California State Athletic Commission canceled the bout and put Joseph Diaz Jr., versus Mercito Gesta as the main event to replace it (Diaz also missed weight for that fight as well).
Risk versus reward. Bivol is a huge risk, a top-tier fighter, a pound-for-pound level type of talent, and yet, other fighters might offer more financial incentives than facing Bivol.
We have rarely if ever seen a situation like Bivol. A fighter who won a big fight, but seemingly is struggling to get a headlining date that he deserves on a major network or the current platform he is on, which is DAZN through a Matchroom Boxing co-promotion deal. Even if it is simply a stay-busy fight, that didn't happen in the first half of the year, and now we start to creep into the American sporting calendar in which football is king both college and professional, as well as the return of the NBA - this means possibly limited dates to close out the holiday season.
Another problem is his division. Light heavyweight isn't really a talent-rich division. We have Artur Beterbiev and Dmitry Bivol, then the rest of the division - or so it seems right now, as I am sure Callum Smith, who fights Beterbiev, is hopeful to change perception on that on August 19th in his world title fight with Beterbiev.
Beterbiev doesn't fight much (albeit he is fighting twice this year) - and is the most logical opponent for Bivol as they are the two best light heavyweights of their era, as that would set the stage for the undisputed fight for the light heavyweight title.
Beterbiev, the three-belt light heavyweight world champion, is 38-years-old, and despite being a monstrous puncher, is making a mandatory WBC world title defense on August 19th, against former super middleweight world champion, Callum Smith as mentioned above. If successful, Bivol and Beterbiev could try to be made in some form of a co-promotional agreement between Matchroom and Top Rank, but the hard thing for Bivol is the money he deserves for his achievements doesn’t seem to match his drawing power at the box office, because of that places like Saudi Arabia, become his coveted place to fight - as they will pay him a market value or even above market value price for his services. The issue is…with so many great heavyweight bouts being rumored, where does the historically important undisputed light heavyweight bout between Beterbiev and Bivol fit into the world of boxing?
Even more so, Bivol has earned the right to be a headlining fighter. He beat the fighter who makes the most money in the sport, he should get a pay raise, right? Now the issue becomes who is the consumer. In other sporting leagues, the act of the sport is the entertainment, boxing has a bit of show business to it. Just because an actor can act well doesn't mean they will get big blockbuster roles. Business is about numbers, analytics, and trends.
Add to it, it seems Bivol has waited around to pursue a Canelo Alvarez rematch that seemingly will no longer happen, ever, or a Jaime Munguia fight, which seems to be a hard one to land especially since Munguia is fighting at super middleweight. Bivol is looking to fight a big name, one that he deserves, but outside of Canelo or Beterbiev, where is the intrigue - sadly he is that good, that those are his options currently.
The closest in recent memory was the Guillermo Rigondeaux situation in which the fantastic Cuban world champion and one of the best amateur fighters was ridiculed to obscurity after his masterpiece of a boxing lesson against Nonito Donaire.
Even then, Rigondeaux had earned [unfairly] a reputation, as an unexciting fighter. Bivol defeated Canelo Alvarez the face of boxing. He looked to land a rematch but wanted it at super middleweight not at light heavyweight where he had beaten him prior. Bivol wanted to attempt to be undisputed - yet Canelo opted to go to the Premier Boxing Champions, and pursue a Jermell Charlo fight. The Bivol rematch is done for the next two-to-three years more than likely and the longer it takes to make, the less fan interest there is.
Add to it that the WBC has currently stated they will not sanction Bivol as well for a world title fight given the Ukraine and Russia conflict.
Bivol has not done much wrong - yet the landscape of boxing seemingly is working against him.
What if he doesn't fight in 23?
Despite being an undefeated fighter who defeated two of the three best light heavyweights at the time in his division - Bivol has an outside chance of not fighting in 2023 (though that should be unlikely). Bivol is one of the sad cases that boxing is politics more than it is a sport at times, and whether it is the world at large or even his purist boxing style, the big fights are being made without Dmitry Bivol.
Is that fair - no? Yet, it is the situation he is in. Typically fighters in his spot lose a close a split-decision and become bitter at the sport, Bivol has never lost a fight, yet he is on the sidelines seemingly at the whims of the biggest names in the divisions around his weight class such as Canelo Alvarez, and Jaime Munguia. In recent memory fighters like Erislandy Lara and Richar Abril fell into this category of being spoilers, who had a close fight go against them that made them easier to avoid.
After a masterful 2022, Bivol now has had an irrelevant sequel to his year of luster and magic. One can only hope that in the coming weeks, he lands a fight date and pursues something worthy of his prior achievements of the previous year.