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Dmitry Bivol Upsets Canelo Alvarez by Unanimous Decision to Retain Title

Nate Loop@Nate_LoopFeatured ColumnistMay 8, 2022

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MAY 07: Dmitry Bivol (L) throws a left at Canelo Alvarez during their WBA light heavyweight title fight at T-Mobile Arena on May 07, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Dmitry Bivol got a chance to make a name for himself with one fight, and he made the most of it.

The 31-year-old light heavyweight champion scored an upset win over Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) on Saturday night, defeating the Mexican superstar by unanimous decision to retain his WBA world title at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

All three judges scored the bout 115-113.

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

The moment Dmitry Bivol won the biggest fight of his career 👏 Watch #CaneloBivol | Live on https://t.co/FoiaUucI53 worldwide, excl. Latin America & Mexico | DAZN PPV in US & Canada https://t.co/JPEsWdYbTI

It was an cagey, high-level fight. The  speed and feints of Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) gave Alvarez fits throughout the match, preventing the challenger from getting into a rhythm during any single round. Alvarez had his moments, especially with the uppercut, but he couldn't take control of the match like he has so many times over the past several years.

The Russian's clean, mistake-free performance was exemplary considering he came in as an underdog and allowed him to become only the second fighter after Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2013 to defeat Alvarez.

Bivol's calling cards coming into the bout were his jab and his defense. As the CompuBox numbers show, he managed to neutralize Alvarez just like he has so many other contenders.

CompuBox @CompuBox

Bivol dominated, landing 36% of his power punches & needed to land just 4 jabs per round to tame Canelo, who landed in single digits in 10 of 12 rounds. Canelo's 84 landed punches are the fewest landed in a 12-round fight. Canelo landed 117 punches vs. Mayweayher. #CaneloBivol https://t.co/wM5u5BVfPj

Despite being the champion, Bivol was clearly aware he wasn't expected to win the fight. He acknowledged ruining a potential superfight with his surprise victory.

Michael Benson @MichaelBensonn

Dmitry Bivol after beating Canelo Alvarez: "Eddie Hearn, sorry I broke your plans with Gennady Golovkin." Canelo vs GGG III was agreed for Sept 17th before this result happened.

Alvarez, fighting for just the second time as a light heavyweight, didn't make excuses for the loss. He confirmed he would like to go for a rematch.

Mike Coppinger @MikeCoppinger

Canelo Alvarez said he’ll exercise the rematch clause - “it doesn’t stay like this.” Dmitry Bivol said “no problem” but he wants to be treated like a champion next time around #CaneloBivol

If a rematch does come together, it's clear Alvarez will have to change some things to put together a winning strategy.

After a tentative first round that saw both boxers content to feel each other out, Alvarez applied more pressure in the second frame. He backed up Bivol and tagged him with a few good body punches and a slicing hook around the high guard, but the champion did well to limit the damage.

Bivol's length and size were a major point of discussion in the buildup to the fight, and he used did his best to make use of those advantages. He pumped the jab when he could, throwing quick lefts behind it that Alvarez had to eat.

The ring-position battle was huge in this bout, with both fighters getting some solid work in early on by trapping the other on the ropes. Alvarez did well to sneak in uppercuts, while Bivol relied heavily on his trademark jab.

The fifth round saw Bivol put together the best sustained attack of the match to that point. He pushed the fight to the ropes and unleashed a flurry of punches on Alvarez. Not every blow landed, but it was clear that Alvarez was being challenged in a way that he hasn't been over the past few years.

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

Bivol lands several punches and Canelo wants more 🍿 Watch #CaneloBivol | Live on https://t.co/FoiaUtUyQV worldwide, excl. Latin America & Mexico | DAZN PPV in US & Canada https://t.co/U3p3u6vJmj

As Alvarez has moved up in weight over the years, he's made it more of a habit to walk down his opponents and break them down with body shots. That was clearly his intent against Bivol, but the Russian's vaunted defense made that a difficult task. Some of Alvarez's best attacks bounced off the guard, allowing Bivol to land his own counter shots.

Even in difficult fights, the latter rounds are where Alvarez has been able to separate himself and either earn a knockout or assert his dominance. Bivol managed to avoid that fate, preventing Alvarez from landing a fight-altering punch. He used Alvarez's own preferred tactics against him, pushing the fight to the corners and forcing him to play defense. Alvarez was able to get Bivol to miss quite a bit with his expert head movement, but he failed to get anything going on his end.

DAZN Boxing @DAZNBoxing

Canelo's corner knows he's taking too many shots 😯 Watch #CaneloBivol | Live on https://t.co/FoiaUtUyQV worldwide, excl. Latin America & Mexico | DAZN PPV in US & Canada https://t.co/6DiHfv2HRf

It appeared fatigue became a factor in the final few rounds, as it became clear Alvarez needed to come up with something big to turn the fight around. He tried to create those opportunities but struggled to maintain pressure. Bivol's strength and defensive acumen allowed him to weather those charges. It was a brilliant, all-around performance.

Rosie Perez @rosieperezbklyn

Canelo is so confused. The bombs that usually knock his prior opponents out are not having the same effect on the bigger man - Bivol. 11th #CaneloBivol @DAZNBoxing @MatchroomBoxing

While a rematch is tempting, Alvarez doesn't necessarily have to continue to push his limits at light heavyweight. He came into this bout as the undisputed super middleweight champion, thanks to his win over Caleb Plant last year. The 168-pound division is much closer to his natural weight. 

As for Bivol, it's now readily apparent to anyone unfamiliar with him why he's an undefeated world champion. He's calm under pressure, has a brilliant jab that works as a set-up punch or its own brand of offense, and his defense is world-class. Any opponent will have a tough time against his blend of skills.