By Luis A. Cortes III
When WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol (16-0) (11 KO’s) takes the ring tonight in Chicago to defend his title for the fifth time against Dominican power puncher Lenin Castillo (20-2-1) (15 KO’s). He does so fully aware that in order to stay relevant in the mind of boxing fans, not only does he need a victory, but an impressive showing would go a long way to further his future goal of being the undisputed king of his division. Before that goal can be released though, the landscape of the ultra-talent rich light heavyweight division is about to change with two major blockbuster fights scheduled to take place in the next couple of weeks.
First is the unification fight on ESPN next Friday night from Philadelphia between WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdk and the IBF champion Artur Beterbiev. That fight is being viewed as a possible fight of the year candidate without a single punch having been thrown. It’s truly a fight fan's dream matchup that should deliver pure action. After that is the November 2nd historical showdown between current middleweight king Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev. With these two huge fights taking place within weeks of each other, it must be hard pressed for the other champion Bivol to have to wait his turn at taking a crack at the other elite fighters. Notice that his title defense tonight wasn’t mentioned in terms of mega fights that could alter the landscape of the division.
It wasn’t long ago, back in 2017, when Bivol first captured the title on HBO. He was clearly being nurtured by the network and his handlers to be a future box office attraction. At the time, Bivol’s promoters (World of Boxing) had a partnership with U.S. based promoter Main Events that afforded him the ability to have his fights broadcasted on HBO. Main Events handled all things Bivol in the United States, which included him being featured in the main event fight in November of last year in Atlantic City. With HBO getting out of the business of distributing fights just a month later, Bivol and his handlers at World of Boxing decided to move on and join Matchroom Boxing USA. Since that time, Bivol has been featured once on DAZN, a title defense against blue collar contender Joe Smith Jr.
It’s a far cry from the type of profile that Bivol was expecting to have at this point. And it also didn’t help when a potential unification and mega fight with fellow Russian Sergey Kovalev never came to fruition after Kovalev was surprisingly stopped by Elider Alvarez in August of last year. It’s the type of situation that would make any champion in his physical prime frustrated not to get the type of major fights that could cement his own legacy in the sport. This is not lost on Bivol, who so far has remained level headed about the entire situation.
“I want to make my mark in boxing history and to do this you have to fight the best,” stated Bivol. “Of course, I want to fight against the other champions but sometimes you cannot do it because they are busy, but we have good fights and I am happy with that. The fight next weekend is a great one and I would love to face the winner, we will know more about my future after that fight.”
Patience is a virtue right now for Bivol. However, it’s clear through his words that the sand in that hour glass may be running out. It also is clear that he wants his handlers to put him in line to face the other elite fighters since he is planning on being in attendance both next week and in Vegas on November 2nd. During all the pre-fight interviews and conversations leading up to his title defense tonight. Not much time was spent discussing his opponent. Sometimes this is looked at as a bad thing, that a fighter is suffering from a lack of focus with the task at hand. So far in his career, Bivol has been a consummate professional and nothing suggests that he isn’t aware that for him to have these opportunities it starts with being impressive in victory tonight. After all, if he does come out victorious as expected tonight, and doesn’t automatically get a unification fight with the winner of next weekends mega unification fight, he has a plethora of worthy challengers to fight. The light heavyweight division is one of the deepest in the sport, if not the deepest. With elite fighters not only as champions, but also on the contender level.
A victory tonight for Bivol will put him in line to fight all the contenders and unified champions to try and indeed make his mark in the sport. His style of boxer-puncher also meshes well with any of these other fighters on the elite level, which means pure excitement for fans. Although a victory in his fight tonight won’t contribute to the rapidly changing landscape of the division. Bivol indeed needs to be victorious, since the only way the landscape changes tonight is if he truly has looked past his opponent and winds up losing in a major upset.