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Boxing Social Staff Head-To-Head: Canelo Vs Bivol

Boxing Social writers Phil Rogers and John Angus MacDonald go head to head to debate the outcome of the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez vs Dmitry Bivol showdown…

As the (near) undisputed pound-for-pound king, any fight involving Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez inevitably attracts attention, and many believe that in the formidable form of undefeated Russian WBA ‘super’ light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol the Mexican may be in for one of the toughest assignments of his career on Saturday night at the T Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Ahead of the fight, we asked Boxing Social writers Phil Rogers and John Angus MacDonald to debate the outcome…

Phil Rogers: What a fight this is! As many have already said, this is Canelo’s toughest test since his pair of fights against Gennadiy ‘GGG’ Golovkin and I cannot wait to see how it unfolds.

Bivol’s recent form is unremarkable but his size, skill set and style pose a huge danger to the Mexican. The Russian possesses an exceptional jab which he mixes up to head and body to great effect. It’ll certainly need to be on point in this fight as we’ve seen in the past how Canelo can punish a lazy pawing jab.

Winning fights at range, controlling the centre of the ring and staying off the ropes, has been fundamental to Bivol’s past successes and he’ll need to replicate this to near-perfect precision if he’s to win on Saturday.

Bivol’s footwork is different to Canelo’s recent opposition; he takes smaller steps in and out and pivots away from danger. How the Mexican manages this is key; he’s garnered a reputation as an elite pressure fighter but is also brilliant at luring his opponents in, posing as a moving target, before counter-punching to body and head. In these moments Bivol’s tendency to drop his hands in exchanges could be his undoing, particularly if Canelo’s timing in the pocket is as immaculate as his 2021 form.

There will be no coasting through rounds for the Russian either this time, something he’s been guilty of in previous fights. With every minute that passes he’ll be experiencing an intense physical and mental examination as well as a gargantuan step-up in class as Canelo looks to close the distance, work the body, slow his man up and eventually break him down.

I see this being a nip-and-tuck affair for the first 6-8 rounds, and potentially a nightmare to score, before Canelo’s seasoned pressure, timing and composure sees him over the line by way of a razor thin decision. Brace yourselves for the howls of “robbery’!

John Angus MacDonald: Everything Phil has said in his analysis is correct, yet I’m still not particularly excited for this fight. There are three reasons for this:

1) Bivol has not looked at his best recently. During bouts against Umar Salamov and Craig Richards, his performances were flat. Perhaps, he found it difficult to motivate himself for those fights, but regardless, it is not the sort of form you want to see a fighter in ahead of the biggest match-up of their career. If this had been the Bivol of the Jean Pascal and Joe Smith victories, I’d give him a better chance.

2) While Bivol has been producing lacklustre wins, Canelo has looked better than ever. During his run at 154lbs, the Mexican had some issues with movement. Since then, he has transformed into an elite level pressure fighter. Bivol’s biggest strength is his footwork, but the Mexican is now more adept at cutting off the ring.

3) Regardless of what happens, Canelo will win. Even if Bivol produces the fight of his life I don’t believe he can win on the cards. Chances are that if you are reading this, you believe Canelo has lost to at least one of the following: Erislandy Lara, Austin Trout and Gennadiy Golovkin. Of course, according to the judges, he didn’t lose any of those fights.

Canelo is the biggest name in boxing, he’s a Mexican fighting a Russian, in America, on ‘Cinco De Mayo’ weekend. There is more chance of the Reverend Ian Paisley becoming the next Pope than of Bivol getting a decision against Canelo. I know, they will doubtless rebrand Bivol as Kyrgyzstani, Moldovan or Korean, but in the United States these are just synonyms for ‘Commie’. In Las Vegas, the house always wins.