“Kings are like stars. They rise and set. They have the worship of the World, but no repose.” – Percy Bysshe Shelley.
The field is empty. Plenty of grass to graze upon and the perfect balance of sunlight and shade. Food for the taking, water unattended and the chance to ‘own’ your part of the World. All we need now is a lion hungry enough to stake his claim.
I was delighted when I managed to track down interim WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, a fighter I’d admired from afar. The shift at the top of the division was not lost on him. He knew that his time was now and from talking to him, he seemed more than ready to capitalise.
“In my opinion if you want to achieve something in your life, in everything you do, in any type of business you do, you must set the maximum goal. Same in boxing, there’s only one goal for me I want to become an undisputed World champion.”
Bivol is approaching his physical prime at the age of twenty-six. An imposing frame and almost inescapable command of the ring have led to him winning his eleven professional fights without issue – nine opponents not reaching the final bell. A hard-hitting athlete, I wanted to find out about the softer side of the Soviet man.
“Yes I was born in Kyrgyzstan and I had a great childhood I was born in small town named Tokmok. Our family lived in a two-bedroom apartment first. Then later we moved to five bedroom apartment, it was plenty of room for everyone.”
The first taste of success and what it could breed was his parents upgrading to a much larger property. A symbol of status and social standing, their five bedroom apartment brought much joy to the family and Dmitry remembered those times fondly.
“I was a happy kid, it always was great weather out there. It was very hot in summer and it was snowy at winter, not like in St Petersburg where it is mostly cloudy and rainy, but still, of course, I love St Petersburg a lot. I went to the regular school, nothing special I wasn’t the bad student, always had A and B grades.”
The tiny town of Tokmok has sport pulsing through its veins. Currently home to both Kazakh and German Olympic athletes, its population ticks just mildly over fifty thousand people. Sporting success, it seems, will be taken to a whole different level when Bivol fights to cement his first World title.
Two-weight World champion Badou Jack has chosen to vacate the title that Bivol was due to fight for and this follows Nathan Cleverley also avoiding the mandatory challenge of the undefeated Russian. He now faces off against surprise challenger Trent Broadhurst on the Matchroom Sports Monte Carlo show, looking to upgrade his interim title to the fully fledged version. Much avoided, Bivol has now punched his way through the doors slammed shut in his face.
“I’m very excited that I’ll fight soon and I feel myself great, full of energy and I want to step into the ring as fast as possible. As far as the title fight, I’ll be happy and pleased because we were looking for the title fight for a while.”
Australian Broadhurst was seen as a surprising choice by many. Cuban standout Sulivan Barrera was vocal in discussing his disappointment at not being named Dmitry’s opponent. I asked about Barrera, who is seemingly picking fights on Twitter more often than on paper,
“As far as the Sullivan Barrera fight, I think it is a good match up, a good fight. He’s a well- known solid fighter here in United States and all over the world, but to be honest the fight was offered to both of us from HBO for Kovalev/Ward rematch undercard and we, me and my team accepted the fight right away. For Barrera, it took some time, but in the end they declined the fight!”
Fellow Russian light-heavyweight Sergey Kovalev’s back-to-back defeats to Andre Ward had tied up all but one of the division’s belts. The American’s recent retirement from the sport has subsequently lit up the translucent ‘vacant’ sign over the door of the WBA, IBF & WBO.
First step – WBA. But moving on from there, Dmitry has plotted his route to domination. He wants every title and big fights along the way. The prospect of Anthony Yarde challenging Dmitry Bivol at some point is mouth-watering. He spoke to me about his appearance on the Monte Carlo bill and potential clashes nearer to home.
“Yes I’m going to fight in Monte Carlo on Eddie Hearn’s boxing show but it’s not something new for me. I used to fight on different shows which were made by different promoters. I’m not even interested in those questions; those are more for my promoter or my manager. As far as Great Britain: of course it became the central place for European professional boxing.”
“Every event that happens there is always a filled up stadium and arena, and of course if I would have a chance I’d love to fight in Great Britain.”
Dmitry Bivol could be crowned King of the light-heavyweights on November 4th in the land of casinos and convertibles. His coronation could be explosive. A young man who has only ever dreamed of World titles is now almost blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel.
A very successful and decorated amateur himself, I really wanted to know what advice he would give to those boxers making their way through the unpaid ranks and cultivating their own style. Bivol had won the World Cup gold medal and taken a bronze in the AIBA World Youth Games, his talent on display at the top table. I was intrigued to find out Bivol’s struggles as a professional in the loneliest of sports.
“I would say that the toughest challenge is to stay disciplined all the time. Besides boxing, of course as a normal human being. I’m always thinking and worried about my family, about my wife, kids, parents and sisters. I always wanted to help them and want them to feel well which is fine for every person and boxer. I think that everyone goes through these things in professional boxing.”
That protective, providing nature. Looking after what is important to him and establishing himself in his own field. The throwback to that hungry lion, watching over his pride.
“Advice to amateur boxers or young professional boxers – the most difficult and important part is to find the right team, the right promoter, the right manager, the right coach. People you can trust and never doubt. In one moment you have to switch the toggle and forget about everything in your private life. (Forget) about all your problems, you have to clear your mind and concentrate only on boxing.”
Heavy is the head that wears the crown.
Dmitry Bivol is expected to be a World champion as we wake up on November 5th. Bigger battles await him with potential fights involving Artur Beterbiev, Adonis Stevenson and of course countryman Sergey Kovalev. He has the tools. He has the mindset. A hungry predator, cementing his place on one of boxing’s thrones.
The King is dead. Long live the King!
Written by Craig Scott