LAS VEGAS — Dmitry Bivol, in one of the biggest boxing upsets in recent memory, scored a unanimous decision over the sport’s top star, Canelo Alvarez, on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena.
All three judges scored the fight 115-113, but the bout wasn’t nearly that close. Still, Bivol needed to win the final rounds on all three cards to avoid a draw. Equally puzzling: All three judges scored the first four rounds for Alvarez.
The judges’ view aside, Bivol (20-0, 11 KOs) was in control from the opening bell, as he used his superior size, range and jab to retain his light heavyweight title in his ninth defense.
“I prove myself today, I’m the best [in my division],” said Bivol, who resides in Saint Petersburg, Russia, but didn’t have his national anthem played at a time when many of his countrymen are being barred from competing in major sporting events due to the war in Ukraine. “Eddie Hearn, sorry I broke your plans with Gennadiy Golovkin.”
The long-awaited trilogy fight between Alvarez and Golovkin, the biggest event boxing can deliver, was already signed for Sept. 17. Instead, Alvarez said he plans to exercise his contractual right to an immediate rematch.
“It doesn’t end like this,” said Alvarez, who entered the ring rated No. 1 pound-for-pound by ESPN.
“No excuses, I lost today; he is a great boxer … I felt his power. He comes in and he goes out. He manages his distance really well.”
As Bivol said, “Rematch? No problem.”
The 31-year-old Bivol used beautiful footwork to circle away from Alvarez’s power shots and stay out of harm’s way during the early rounds, yet Bivol also stood his ground and fired three- and four-punch combinations that met the mark.
Alvarez (57-2-2, 39 KOs) tore through the opposition at 168 pounds over the past 16 months and collected all four world titles to capture the undisputed super middleweight championship, but an attempt to regain a 175-pound title proved to be too much.
The defeat is Alvarez’s first since 2013, when he was just 23 and outclassed by Floyd Mayweather. And like the all-time great, Bivol employed expert counterpunching set up by the jab to pile up rounds.
The 31-year-old Mexican boxer applied plenty of pressure and found some success on the inside, particular with a right uppercut he ripped through Bivol’s guard on occasion. But Alvarez wasn’t able to sustain his attack.
Bivol, ESPN’s No. 2 light heavyweight, was the far cleaner puncher throughout the fight. He caught many of Alvarez’s powerful shots on his gloves and arms, his left biceps swollen and red when the final bell rang.
“He beat my arm up but not my head,” said Bivol, who was a 4-1 underdog, per Caesars Sportsbook. “He kept hitting me in the arms and I kept hitting him in the face…I expect that. I watched the fight against Callum Smith.”
Alvarez had targeted Smith’s arm in an attempt to take away the jab and left the Englishman with a torn biceps in their December 2020 fight. Against Bivol, the strategy didn’t work.
Bivol landed a surprising amount of flush shots — 152 connects to 84 — and Alvarez’s face was already red by the end of Round 1. Alvarez is used to being in control, but he often appeared frustrated, particularly down the stretch as the seconds ticked away on his unbelievable run at the top of the sport.
“I know how people love Canelo and he’s normal, he’s the biggest fighter in the world,” Bivol conceded. “He’s a champion in four weight classes and has four belts. People are on his side. No problem for me.”
Alvarez marched forward and pressed to land a fight-changing shot, but it never materialized. He was able to land a few solid punches in Round 9, and the crowd roared, hoping he could rally down the stretch, but Alvarez admitted he was fatigued.
“I don’t feel like I lost the fight,” Alvarez said. “… Personally, I felt he only won four or five rounds. … Maybe the weight was a slight issue and made me feel less than 100 percent. … We want the rematch and we’re going to do better in the rematch.
“Tonight I was looking for greatness. I have many years ahead of me and I’m going to come back stronger.”