Canelo Alvarez vs. Dmitry Bivol: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown and PredictionMay 4, 2022
Canelo Alvarez vs. Dmitry Bivol: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown and Prediction
Canelo Alvarez is fighting this weekend.
And while boxing may not be what it was a generation or two ago, it's still an event when the sport's reigning and defending pay-per-view champion steps into the ring.
The current four-belt king at 168 pounds ventures up to 175 for the second time in three years, this time to challenge WBA champion Dmitry Bivol in the main event of a DAZN-streamed show in Las Vegas.
Bivol's a talented and unbeaten commodity, albeit perhaps only to the hardest of hardcore fans.
The B/R combat sports team analyzed each main event principal from head to toe as a primer for the weekend extravaganza.
Take a look at what we came up with, and drop a thought or two of your own in the comments.
What You Need to Know
What: Canelo Alvarez vs. Dmitry Bivol
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
TV: DAZN PPV
What's at Stake: For the record, it's actually Bivol's WBA world title at 175 pounds that's on the line.
But as it is whenever Alvarez fights, it's his status as the sport's highest-profile star that's being risked.
He's already an undisputed champion at 168 pounds, has picked up belts at 154 and 160, and had a brief turn as the WBO claimant at light heavyweight after a 2019 demolition of Sergey Kovalev.
A trilogy match with middleweight opponent Gennady Golovkin—against whom Alvarez has a majority decision win and a split-decision draw—is penciled in for later this year if he gets by Bivol, an unbeaten 31-year-old who's held WBA belts of one worth or another since his fifth pro fight seven years ago.
It's a likely occurrence according to the oddsmakers at DraftKings, who've installed Alvarez as a -475 favorite (bet $475 to win $100) while Bivol is a +350 proposition (bet $100 to win $350) as an underdog.
Canelo Alvarez's Tale of the Tape
Record: 57-1-2, 39 KOs
Weight: 174.5 pounds*
All stats per BoxRec
*Official weight at last fight in weight class in November 2019.
Dmitry Bivol's Tale of the Tape
Record: 19-0, 11 KOs
Weight: 174.75 pounds*
All stats per BoxRec
*Official weight at last fight in December 2021.
If you forecast a Bivol win but don't lean toward him here, we'd love to hear the logic.
Because it doesn't appear as if he'd have another path.
Bivol is a disciplined and economical fighter who chooses his shots carefully and doesn't waste punches.
He has fast hands and good feet and is often content to use them rather than engaging in firefights, as evidenced by six straight 12-round decisions since his last win by stoppage four years ago.
He did win 11 of his first 13 fights by KO, but his shots are less concussive than other light heavyweight title claimants—which could be why Alvarez chose to chase his belt first rather than jumping straight toward a slugger like Artur Beterbiev and his 17 consecutive KOs.
As for Alvarez, his style has morphed as he's pursued different quarry.
He was a patient, accurate counterpuncher in earlier fights, but his bouts at 168 and 175 have so far seen him press the action while walking foes down and slowing them with body punches.
That'll matter with a tall, mobile foe like Bivol, and it'll be incumbent upon the Mexican star to take the fight to the ropes or the corners when he can deliver more sustained punishment with heavier shots.
The man who executes his plan will have a huge advantage.
If it ends on a highlight-reel KO or after a brutal beatdown, it won't be Bivol celebrating.
Alvarez has become a YouTube mainstay thanks to single-punch erasures of Rocky Fielding and Liam Smith with vicious body shots, Amir Khan with an arcing overhand right that rendered him unconscious and James Kirkland with a sweeping right that sent him to the floor like a flopping fish.
It's not his only strength in the ring, but he does hit for power to both the body and head.
Thirty-nine of 57 beaten foes failed to hear the final bell, including both 168-pound champions he conquered in 2021 and then-light heavyweight king Kovalev back in 2019.
Bivol's KO percentage is a few ticks higher than 50/50, but he's gone the distance in six straight fights after opening his professional run with just two decisions in 13 fights.
The most-decorated fighters he's met, Jean Pascal and Joe Smith Jr., both went 12 rounds without a knockdown between them. The less-heralded likes of Umar Salamov, Craig Richards and Lenin Castillo have managed to stay vertical across a combined 36 rounds, too, in Bivol's three most recent outings.
It's not unprecedented for a fighter to play defense and frustrate Alvarez for 36 minutes.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. stayed in the pocket and bedeviled the 22-year-old version into his lone defeat nine years ago, and fleet-footed Cuban export Erislandy Lara avoided nearly everything resembling combat while pushing Alvarez to a split decision two fights later in 2014.
A ladder-climbing Khan tried it, too, and was successful until the first time Alvarez hit him cleanly.
So if Bivol wants to be the boxing equivalent of an off-speed pitcher, he has a style that's amenable, and he can fire off quick, if not deadly one-twos to keep his man off balance.
Alvarez plays a more combative form of defense, slipping punches and bobbing and moving his head on an elite level. That makes opponents interested in winning more than surviving expend extra effort to hit him, which leaves them open to counters. He subtly uses his feet, too, while pivoting and moving, allowing him to defend and attack from angles.
He's never been knocked down and, even in bouts against bombers like Kirkland, Kovalev and Golovkin, has never been punished to the point where a loss has seemed imminent.
Alvarez's X-Factor: Is Not Enough Too Much?
There's plenty of reason to like the way Alvarez does things.
In an era where promoters protect assets and sidestep fan-friendly matchups, he's a breath of fresh air with his willingness to climb the weight-class ladder to take on dangerous challenges.
It's certainly calculated on some level, but it's refreshing nonetheless.
Still, it comes with a risk. There may come a time when a guy who debuted at 139 pounds and frequently encounters naturally big opponents simply runs into a nut that he can't crack.
Is Bivol that guy? Probably not. But he's still taller and longer and has spent a career absorbing punches from guys in a division that Alvarez has visited precisely one time in 60 fights. That could matter.
Bivol's X-Factor: There Are Levels to This
Bivol's a respected fighter and has been a capable champion. And he's got plenty of people who'd suggest he's as good as it gets at 175 pounds.
But he's never fought a Canelo Alvarez. In fact, he's never fought anything close.
Precious few of his 19 foes have had anything resembling world-class stature—save for a 36-year-old Pascal and a pre-title version of Smith, who was one fight removed from a loss to Sullivan Barrera.
And while it's true he beat both by wide scorecard verdicts, neither fighter on his best day possessed a dynamic skill set, nor do they bring the sort of swagger that Bivol will see Saturday night.
If he rises from his stool, looks across the ring and realizes he's in deeper than he's ever been, it could be ugly.
Could Alvarez lose this fight? Yes.
And it wouldn't be the biggest upset in boxing history by any stretch.
Bivol has advantages in height and reach and is technically proficient enough to make the pound-for-pound king's night difficult if he arrives anything less than 100 percent.
But it probably won't happen because Alvarez is just that good.
He's done more on the highest level. He's beaten better opposition.
He seems completely at home on the biggest of stages.
If Bivol were a wall-through-fire slugger who could land a fight-changing blow, perhaps. But the idea that a stylist can beat him at this stage seems unlikely.
Instead, he probably stays away and wins a few rounds in the early going
but ultimately becomes more stationary and simply withers under the consistent pounding he receives.
A KO seems a bit of a reach, but a scorecard win in the 116-112 neighborhood seems just about right.
Prediction: Alvarez by unanimous decision
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