Russian star Bivol focused on Arthur and not politics ahead of Saudi showpiece

Unbeaten champion Dimitrii Bivol has his first outing of 2023 this weekend and his first fight in 13 months when he takes on underdog Lyndon Arthur.

Bivol is universally as a top fighter, pound-for-pound, in the world, and there is international clamor for him to meet fellow 175lbs leader Artur Beterbiev in a unification showpiece.

Arthur, 23-1, must come first, however. And despite Bivol’s inactivity, he says he has been okay waiting on the sidelines for a fight.

Asked how frustrated he was by not boxing so far in 2023, he said: “Not too much,” before adding, “because I spent this time usefully, and this time passed so fast. The main thing [is] that I’m going to fight in December [23], and I’m focused on my fight.” 

But Bivol is 32 and these could be prime years. 

“I want to fight minimum two times a year, yeah,” he admitted. “You know, the better you become, the harder [it is] to find opponents, because there aren’t too many opponents against whom I can fight in my weight class. There are just few.”

It is a fair point. Unless he was to tick over, the queue at the top of 175 is not long, but Arthur finds himself in the opposite corner against one of boxing’s franchise players.

“He [Lyndon Arthur] is a good fighter, he has good technique, he is not popular, he’s not famous, but he’s still [the] IBO world champion,” Bivol said. “He has a good jab, he counterpunches good – the straight right hand and uppercut. He moves good.” 

But Bivol is not knee-deep in tape, researching his opponent. He is a fighter who thinks if he continuously improves himself, he will be too good for his opposition. Bivol is 21-0 with 11 wins by stoppage. He’s beaten Canelo, and convincingly.

“You know, I’m not trying to do homework, I’m not trying to watch my opponents and try to do something new – I’m trying to do what I can do best, what I can do better,” Bivol said. “I’m trying to improve myself, it doesn’t matter which opponent I have, I’m trying to be the best I can. If you worry about what you need to do against this opponent, another and another, you couldn’t be yourself. You will try to adjust yourself for somebody [else], you shouldn’t. You should be so good that people should adjust themselves to you.” 

Bivol also insists that motivation is not an issue. Despite having boxed some of the best at his weight, Bivol is full of respect for Arthur, and is fully focused on his goal to unify the titles.

“It’s easy to motivate myself against someone like Lyndon Arthur,” Bivol added. “Why? Because I know how this sport [was] created. Today, you can have a great opponent, tomorrow you need [someone] not as great. I motivate myself every time I go to the ring. I think about [the fact that] I have a goal, somewhere in the future, and this is one of the steps to my goal. I have to be better today to reach my goal.”

And while the Saudi riches are on offer for those taking part on December 23, Bivol has been enticed by the show of starpower there. He was on hand for Tyson Fury’s fight with Francis Ngannou, and found himself surrounded by legends, from Mike Tyson to Sugar Ray Leonard and Manny Pacquiao to Lennox Lewis. Bivol watched, impressively, as became part of that historic role call of champions.

“I’m so happy that I’m going to be there fighting, and I’ve never seen this before,” Bivol explained. “It’s a really big event, yeah. [Anthony] Joshua, [Deontay] Wilder, [all] on the same card, when could we imagine this? And I’m really glad to be a part of these respectful guys, you know? Even when I was at [Tyson] Fury-[Francis] Ngannou, Saudi [Arabia] invited a lot of famous boxers – you saw it with the media – and one day we had the photo shoot on the stairs. When I went there, I see a lot of fighters there from my childhood which I watched on TV. I see these legends, not only boxers, even MMA fighters – I looked at this and they told me, ‘Dimitrii, go stand on the opposite side’. I went there and I saw this small, small space and it was [marked] ‘Dimitrii Bivol.’ I looked at the camera and I looked around me, and I saw all of these legends. I was like, ‘I’ve been in boxing for more than 25 years, and now I deserve this square [to stand on]’. You know? 30 centimeters… to be here. I deserve it, of course I’m glad to be a part of this event and to be part of that event too.” 

Bivol said he was only thinking about his fight, but asked what else he is looking forward to on the show, he said there was another that caught his eye, and it was up at heavyweight.

“For me, it’s my fight, you know?” Bivol said, when asked about the main bout he is concentrating on. “I’m only thinking about my fight, my fight is [the] important fight. Of course it’s selfish, because I have to think like this, this is my fight. Another fight which I want to see, to be honest, is [Deontay] Wilder against [Joseph] Parker. For me it's a really interesting fight, more than [Anthony] Joshua-[Otto] Wallin. Parker I think is the underdog, yeah? But for me, he’s a very good fighter – he could win that fight, from what I know.”

Not everyone is rejoicing in Saudi Arabia’s free flowing cash. The talk of sports washing to cover up a poor Human Rights record, which is constantly under scrutiny from overseas organizations and charities, goes hand in hands with the debates about football, golf, tennis and now boxing. But Bivol has been at the forefront of discussions about international relations, since the WBC said they would not let the Russian fight for their title after Russia invaded Ukraine. 

“To be honest, I don’t want to talk about politics,” Bivol said. “I’m not a politician, I’m an athlete – for my whole life, since [I was] six years-old, I was an athlete, I was a boxer. Politics and coronavirus, I can’t talk about it because I don’t know about it. 

“I’m not a politician. I can’t ask people to follow me because I don’t have enough knowledge to ask people to follow me and to say something. I don’t have knowledge about anything [with regards to] politics.” 

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