PODCAST: Muhammad Ali: By The Numbers with CompuBox (Ep 267)

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney are joined by CompuBox's Bob Cannobio and Lee Groves, co-authors of Muhammad Ali: By The Numbers, to discuss the stats that shaped Ali's extraordinary career and the most surprising facts and figures from his fights.

PODCAST: Alvarez-Kovalev Postfight (Ep 266)

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney react to Eleider Alvarez's shocking seventh-round knockout of Sergey Kovalev and Dmitry Bivol's decision win over Isaac Chilemba in a light heavyweight doubleheader from Atlantic City.

Alvarez Shocks Kovalev with Thunderous Seventh Round Knockout

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Eleider Alvarez began the night with a career record of just 11 stoppage wins in 23 career victories. He ended it with 12 from 24, and no matter how many knockouts he scores over the rest of his career, it’s hard to believe any will be as big as the seventh-round explosion that sent Sergey Kovalev crashing to the canvas three times and to a shocking defeat.

Alvarez (24-0, 12 KOs) had been inactive for 14 months, waiting forlornly for the opportunity to fight for the light-heavyweight belt held by Adonis Stevenson, the belt for which he had been the mandatory challenger for two years. He was the heavy underdog to take the title for which he instead ended up fighting, held by a Kovalev whose last two knockout victories suggested he was once more approaching the form that had made him such a feared force as he tore his way through the division on the way to the top. But Alvarez started brightly, showing fast hands and a willingness to throw flurries to the body and head. Over the first couple of rounds, Kovalev looked uncertain, trying to feint his way in but being kept at a range that suited his challenger. A stiff jab from the Colombian snapped back Kovalev’s head in the second, and a hard right hand afterward caught the Russian’s attention.

Alvarez began the third continuing to land snapping jabs, but about halfway through the frame the narrative looked to be on the verge of changing. Kovalev (32-3-1, 28 KOs) began stalking forward with greater purpose, as if comfortable that Alvarez could not hurt him, seemingly finding his range and timing.

If the third marked a comeback of sorts from Kovalev, the fourth threatened to be decisive. Kovalev now was moving forward with energy, firing punches in volume, working Alvarez to head and body. A right hand appeared to hurt the challenger, as did a left/right combination. A hook landed behind the Alvarez jab, and another. Alvarez landed a right hand at the bell, but the fourth was clearly Kovalev’s round.

So were the fifth and the sixth, although Alvarez made adjustments to limit the damage, circling at a distance, limiting Kovalev to one punch at a time, aiming to catch the champion as he came forward. Kovalev used a constant jab to set up power punches, which he was now throwing with variety as well as menace: an uppercut, a hook, a right hand. By the end of the sixth, Alvarez was looking slightly ragged, a sense accentuated by a nasty cut on his left cheek.

Then came the seventh, and an ending that seemingly came from nowhere. Alvarez uncorked a huge right hand that detonated with atomic force on Kovalev’s jaw. Kovalev shuddered as he crashed to his haunches, sat on the canvas for several seconds, and hauled himself up with no great conviction. He attempted to reenter the fight, but the fight had been knocked out of him with that one punch. Alvarez landed more to be sure: a left hook and a right hand sending him down on to his knees and then onto his side, his left arm bent awkwardly beneath and behind him. Referee David Fields would have been justified halting the action there and then, but he allowed Kovalev one last chance to prove himself able to continue. It took Alvarez just one more punch – another right hand – to send Kovalev down again and convince Fields to step in and stop the action. Time of the stoppage was 2:45.

So decisive was the knockout, coming a little over a year after a stoppage loss to Andre Ward that first punctured the veneer of invincibility that had long surrounded him, that one wonders whether it marked not just a loss but the end of Sergey Kovalev’s career. He will need to ponder his options, with a putative clash with compatriot Dmitry Bivol now off the table. Bivol may end up finding himself dancing with Alvarez, who could barely contain his joy afterward.

“I can’t even describe how I feel,” he said to HBO’s Max Kellerman in the ring. “I wanted to show that I am strong, I have a good chin, and I’m ready for big things. I’m ready for the best in the world. Whoever comes, I’m ready.”

Bivol Pounds Out Workmanlike Decision Over Durable Chilemba

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Eric Raskin

Once it became clear after a few rounds that his tough veteran opponent Isaac Chilemba wasn’t going to capitulate easily, light heavyweight super-prospect-turned-beltholder Dmitry Bivol engaged one of boxing’s time-honored strategies: “Win this one, look good next time.” In the co-featured bout underneath Sergey Kovalev-Eleider Alvarez at Etess Arena at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, Bivol won a lopsided unanimous decision in a fight that didn’t necessarily elevate his stock.

There were plenty of close rounds among the 12 that Bivol and Chilemba boxed, but it was never a close fight. Judges Henry Grant and Ron McNair were both a bit unfair to Chilemba, scoring it a 120-108 shutout, while George Hill was perhaps a bit overly friendly to the underdog, giving Chilemba four of the last five rounds to arrive at a 116-112 card for Bivol.

The left hook was the key weapon for the undefeated 27-year-old Russian, and for the first four rounds, his sharper reflexes and faster hands separated him clearly from the 31-year-old Chilemba. But as the fight wore on, with both men patiently seeking to counterpunch, the rounds got tougher to score, particularly as Chilemba snuck in a handful of effective bodyshots. Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs) really began to play it safe in the final third of the fight, and Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs) never stopped looking for opportunities to turn the fight around. Bivol showed excellent footwork and a keen sense of distance, though, making a one-punch turnaround a near impossibility.

Coming into the fight, the unofficial plan was for Bivol to move on to a showdown with Kovalev next. Bivol got the “W,” so this performance by no means derails his hype train. But it certainly slows his momentum. And while there was talk before the fight of him being ready for the best opposition light heavyweight has to offer, it’s fair now to suggest that Bivol could use one or two more learning experiences first.

Weigh-in Recap and Slideshow: For a Boxer, and a City, a Rebirth

Photos: Ed Mulholland

By Kieran Mulvaney

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- In the center of the casino floor at Atlantic City’s brand-new Ocean Resort Casino, a bank of slot machines sits unused, covered in clear tarp. Given the recent history of both the city and of this property (opened to much fanfare as the Revel in 2012, only to declare bankruptcy twice before closing its doors in September 2014), that might be considered an inauspicious sign. Instead, it is for many a beacon of hope, of a new era dawning for casinos across the country and in this oft-benighted town; states are now free to permit legal sports betting if they so choose, and the empty space with the mothballed slot machines has been set aside as the site for the Ocean Resort’s sportsbook.

There was a time when Atlantic City was almost as synonymous with big-time boxing as was Las Vegas. This is where Mike Tyson flattened Michael Spinks in 91 seconds; where an ancient Roberto Duran recovered from being spun around in a near-circle by an Iran Barkley punch to the jaw to annex a middleweight belt; where Ray Mercer nearly decapitated Tommy Morrison; where Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward staged the last two bouts in their unforgettable trilogy; where, indeed, Gatti made his second home and fought his heart out for adoring fans so many times.

It was here, too, that Sergey Kovalev established his dominance over the light-heavyweight division when he outboxed Bernard Hopkins over twelve rounds at the Boardwalk Hall. By the time he did so, however, Atlantic City’s glory days had long since faded, and not just in the boxing realm. His victory took place two months after the demise of the Revel, which was the third of four casinos to close that year.

Big-time boxing has been absent from the World’s Most Famous Playground ever since; but it returns on Saturday, to a town that dares to hope of a renaissance. In what was either an example of either masterful planning or a case study in complete lack of coordination, Ocean Resort opened its doors five weeks ago on the very same afternoon that the ribbon was cut on the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, a ten-minute walk along the boardwalk. In an earlier incarnation, adorned with the name of a reality-TV star now seeking validation in other arenas, this was the venue that saw the first loss of Roy Jones’ career and the final fight of George Foreman’s. It is also the place to which boxing returns when Kovalev defends his light-heavyweight titles against Montreal-based Colombian Eleider Alvarez.

Kovalev has endured his own decline and fall in the 42 months since he was here last: even as he consolidated his grip on the 175-pound division, there was talk of too much drinking and too little training; there were signs of a fissure between him and trainer John David Jackson; there was a less-than-convincing title defense against Isaac Chilemba, and then back-to-back losses — the first of his career — to Andre Ward. There were mitigating factors in each of those defeats, to which his fans continue to cling; Kovalev himself, however, acknowledged that his life needed a reboot, and after too much alcohol and a car accident in his native land, he took to a Greek monastery to find himself and begin a rebuilding process. Outside the ring, he admits, that process is an ongoing one; inside the ropes, it is well underway, with a new trainer and two knockout wins.

He is favored to make it three victories on the bounce against Alvarez, although not overwhelmingly so; but should Saturday unfold according to plan, then he won’t have to look far for the next threat to his reign. That threat is called Dmitry Bivol; in the night’s co-main event he, like Kovalev did before him, defends his own title against Isaac Chilemba. Also like Kovalev during his own ascent, Bivol is being spoken of in an increasingly loud voice as the Next Big Thing, and if both come through their respective tests with flying colors, a clash seems inevitable sooner rather than later.

Kovalev will tackle that threat when the time comes. Until then, both he and the city that is hosting him will be hoping that any challenges that come their way can be dealt with, and that their respective resurgences prove enduring and not just one more false dawn.

Weights from Atlantic City:

Sergey Kovalev: 174 pounds

Eleider Alvarez: 174.4 pounds

 Dmitry Bivol: 174.6 pounds

Isaac Chilemba: 175 pounds

Shore Thing: The Past, Present, And (Possibly Bright) Future Of Boxing in Atlantic City

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By Eric Raskin

A sage man once said, “Never fall in love at the Jersey shore.” I didn’t listen. I fell in love with boxing at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

The date was October 4, 1997. It was my first live fight card after I started my first real job, as an editor at The Ring magazine. In the penultimate fight of the evening, Arturo Gatti, as he was wont to do, rallied from the verge of defeat to knock Gabriel Ruelas out with a left hook in the fifth round of what our magazine would soon name the Fight of the Year. I, like Ruelas, had been swept off my feet. More than two decades later, boxing and I are still together. And it all started in A.C.

This Saturday night, the Boardwalk hosts big-time boxing for the first time in nearly four years when Sergey Kovalev headlines at the newly opened Hard Rock Atlantic City against Eleider Alvarez, with Dmitry Bivol vs. Isaac Chilemba in the co-feature (HBO, 10 p.m.). There hasn’t been a fight of this significance in “America’s Playground” since Kovalev dominated Bernard Hopkins at Boardwalk Hall on November 8, 2014.

After some lean years, boxing is starting to make sense in Atlantic City again. Not only did the Hard Rock open its doors on June 28, in the space formerly occupied by the shuttered Taj Mahal, but on the same day, about a half-mile up the Boardwalk, Ocean Resort Casino opened for business, welcoming customers into the stunning space briefly known as Revel Casino Hotel. On August 18, Ocean will host its first boxing card.

In addition to two new casinos reversing the contraction trend in A.C. and pursuing boxing as a means of attracting publicity and foot traffic, regulated sports betting came to New Jersey in June after a May 14 Supreme Court ruling enabled individual states to pass legislation governing it. The correlation between sports betting’s legality and boxing’s popularity is a subject of speculation for now. But suffice to say that rare is the gambler who wagers on a contest and doesn’t then watch that contest.

The 1-2 punch of new casinos and sports betting puts the possibility of an Atlantic City boxing revival on the table. From 1982-’85, A.C. averaged 130 boxing cards a year. In 2006, there were six. Last year, there were 14. We’re a long way from the two-to-three-shows-per-week glory days, but it’s trending in the right direction.

My introduction to covering boxing came at an interesting point for New Jersey. Las Vegas had long been American boxing’s capital city, but Mike Tyson gnawing on Evander Holyfield’s ear in June 1997 — and the riot that followed — caused a temporary shift. The postfight madness at MGM Grand, which, according to some on the scene, included gunshots, led to the provisional locking down of the casino and millions in lost revenue. After that, many Vegas casinos temporarily shied away from hosting big fights, leading several major bouts that otherwise might have been earmarked for Sin City to land in A.C.

That aforementioned October Gatti-Ruelas card was headlined by a heavyweight title bout between Lennox Lewis and Andrew Golota. In November ’97, in the same arena that will host Kovalev-Alvarez, George Foreman took on Shannon Briggs in what would be the final fight of Big George’s legendary career. In December, a pay-per-view card headlined by Oscar De La Hoya vs. Wilfredo Rivera found a home at the shore. And early in ’98, Lewis and Briggs slugged it out on the Boardwalk. I was fortunate enough to attend all of these cards in my first few months on the boxing beat.

The major heavyweight fights migrated back to Las Vegas before long, though, and it soon fell on one man to carry Atlantic City boxing on his back: Gatti. After the Ruelas fight, he fought in A.C. a dozen more times, and I lucked into a ringside seat for all of them. The 1998 Fight of the Year against Ivan Robinson, and the almost-as-good rematch. The second and third bouts of his iconic trilogy with Micky Ward. The crowd-pleasing knockouts of Leonard Dorin and James Leija. Time and again, Gatti fans packed Boardwalk Hall, knowing that whether their hero won or lost, they were almost certain to see something violently dramatic.

Speaking of violently dramatic, Atlantic City played host to Kelly Pavlik’s off-the-floor middleweight championship win over Jermain Taylor. It was in Atlantic City that Derrick Jefferson made Larry Merchant profess his love for him and that Hasim Rahman landed in Jim Lampley’s lap — both on the same night. Holyfield’s head gave Rahman boxing’s all-time freakiest hematoma in Atlantic City. (Rahman must suffer PTSD every time Boardwalk Hall comes into view as he drives up the A.C. Expressway.) It was during the painfully short prime of the Revel that Darren Barker got up from a bodyshot from hell to outpoint Daniel Geale. I’ve seen Floyd Mayweather, Naseem Hamed, and Shane Mosley notch wins in Atlantic City.

But the truth is that Atlantic City boxing’s peak years came before my time. The 1980s were the golden age, powered first by an all-time great class of light heavyweights and then by an all-time great heavyweight attraction.

Matthew Saad Muhammad fought in Atlantic City eight times between 1979 and 1983, Michael Spinks had 11 fights in A.C. between ’80 and ’85, and Dwight Muhammad Qawi fought there 13 times that same ’80-’85 stretch. The Jersey shore was the epicenter of arguably the finest era in 175-pound history.

Then as that was petering out, a wrecking ball named Mike Tyson swung into town. He fought eight times in A.C. before winning his first title, then fought there five times between ’87 and ’90, turning back Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes, Carl “The Truth” Williams, Alex Stewart, and, in the biggest fight Atlantic City has ever hosted, Michael Spinks. For 91 seconds, New Jersey’s glitzy, seedy casino town was the center of the sports universe.

More huge heavyweight fights followed: Foreman vs. Gerry Cooney, Holyfield (whose Real Deal Boxing now promotes in Atlantic City) vs. Foreman, Ray Mercer vs. Tommy Morrison, Riddick Bowe’s second fight with Golota. There was also the last great night of Roberto Duran’s career, when, as Old Man Winter raged with a snowstorm outside, the clever old man staved off winter inside and upset Iran Barkley.

Now, after a big-fight hibernation of nearly four years, Kovalev and company are kicking off a new era.

“It’s a great fight that’s got some marquee to it,” Hard Rock Vice President of Entertainment Bernie Dillon recently told the New York Post. “It’s a good start of us. I’m born and raised in Atlantic City and being a boxing fan it makes me feel good we can do something not just for Hard Rock in Atlantic City, but the city. Hopefully it is just the first step to getting more boxing back in this city.”

Before Kovalev, Alvarez, Bivol, and Chilemba step in the ring, fans will, for the first time, be able to walk into a New Jersey casino and place a bet on the outcome. At Borgata, at Ocean, at Bally’s, and at Harrah’s, sports betting windows are open.

Times change, but one thing is constant: Money talks. And that means that over the next few years, odds are I’ll be extending the list of great fights for which I’ve been ringside in Atlantic City.

Plan of Attack: Kovalev and Alvarez Strategize For Fight Night

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Gordon Marino

Light-heavyweight king Sergey Kovalev has a heavyweight mindset to go with

his heavyweight punching power. That said, the fact that the “Krusher” will never get a chance to reverse his losses to the now retired Andre Ward has to feel like a liver shot. Equally troubling, Kovalev has an ardent desire to unify the title and Adonis Stevenson, who owns one of the 175-pound title belts, and whom Kovalev refers to as “Chickenson,” has been avoiding the Russian destroyer for years.

On Saturday, Kovalev (32-2-1, 28 KOs) will defend his crown against another light-heavyweight whom Stevenson seems allergic in top contender Eleider “Storm” Alvarez.

Born in Columbia, Alvarez (23-0, 11 KOs) won a gold medal in the 2007 Pan American Games. Now residing in Montreal, “Storm” made his professional debut in 2009. Since then, he’s notched impressive victories over the likes of Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute, Isaac Chilemba, Ryno Liebenberg, and Edison Miranda. Despite his ledger against tough opposition, the 34-year-old Alvarez is the first to acknowledge that, “The man I am going to be fighting with. . . is the best in the category of 175 pounds.”

Ward aside, Kovalev has dominated his division to the point that he has had a difficult time landing competitive fights. However, he recognizes that this challenger is a real challenge. Assessing Alvarez, Kovalev said, “It’s a big test for me. He is very motivated. He’s hungry for this fight and for a victory. He’s undefeated. It’s not an easy fight... He’s dangerous. I cannot say whether I can knock him out or get a victory by points. It’s a good fight for the boxing fans.”

There are similarities in the styles of Kovalev and Alvarez. Both combatants boast five-star jabs. Alvarez says, "My jab is my best weapon so I am going to use it against Kovalev."

Though at six feet he is two inches shorter than the champ, Alvarez enjoys a reach advantage and has a quicker trigger. Still, Kovalev has a pulverizing lead left and has even registered knockdowns with his jab.

Both fighters specialize in explosive right hand counters over their opponent’s lead. In fact, it is with this return shot that Alvarez has set up most of his knockouts. There should be plenty of opportunities for Alvarez to answer a left with a zinging right on Saturday night. After all, Kovalev is always pumping his jab and often brings his left back just above the belt line. And yet, Alvarez had best be mindful that the low left might be one of the traps Kovalev sets to bait his prey into the danger zone.

In nearly every one of his tiffs, Kovalev’s first goal has been to cut off the ring on fighters trying to stay on the safe side of his juggernaut right. In this, the first boxing event at the Atlantic City Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Kovalev might not have to work so hard to find his man.

While Alvarez has excellent balance and respectable footwork, he almost stubbornly stays in the pocket and he does not move his head. Pressed on whether or not he fears Kovalev’s vaunted power, the Columbian native shot back, "If I was scared then I wouldn't be boxing.”

For psychological reasons, many fighters leave the film study to their trainers, but Alvarez has been scrutinizing the Ward fights and claims to have picked up some tricks from the S.O.G. One of Ward’s greatest virtues was his unpredictable movement and punch sequences. Alvarez is predictable. Still, from watching the Ward tussles, Alvarez may have noticed that when Kovalev jabs, he often drops his right hand. Ward took advantage of this mistake and pasted Kovalev with sharp left hooks that had to make the Russian a little hesitant about letting his Susie Q fly. And yet, while Alvarez has been able to pull the trigger on his left hook inside, he has not been particularly adept at letting it go from mid to long range.  

No doubt, Alvarez also took note of Ward’s effective straight rights and left hooks to the midsection. Effective body work requires breaking the perimeter and bending at the knees on the inside. However, Alvarez tends to straighten up when he is chest-to-chest and that could negate his ability to douse Kovalev’s fiery attack.

Knockout artists often have underestimated boxing IQs. George Foreman is a case in point. Though a wrecking ball of a puncher, Big George was a sweet scientist. Likewise, don’t be misled by Kovalev’s knack for putting people to bed. He is patient and knows his craft as well as how to decipher his opponent’s style.  

After a recent workout, Kovalev confided, “Some fights, I don’t like myself – I mean my fights. I didn’t like my last fight. I didn’t like my performance. Right now, I am trying to delete these mistakes and do better every fight. Every fight, something happens. I thought I knew a lot, but something always happens new. I get a new experience from each fight and each preparation.”

In other words, don’t look for the Krusher to wilt or get flustered if Alvarez manages to add some upgrades to his boxing hard drive.

 

CompuBox Preview and Prediction: Bivol vs. Chilemba

 Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By CompuBox

WBA light heavyweight titlist Dmitry Bivol is just one of three Russians to hold a light heavyweight belt, but, at least as of now, he could end up being the best of the bunch. After all, the IBF's Artur Beterbiev is 33 and has been beset by injuries and long layoffs while the WBO's Sergey Kovalev is 35 and won't last forever (the WBC's Adonis Stevenson -- the only non-Russian titlist at 175 -- will turn 41 in September and has no fights scheduled).

At 27, Bivol is in his physical prime, but if he is to rise to the top he must beat the likes of Isaac Chilemba, a hard-luck boxer from Malawi who troubled Kovalev in his first title shot before losing a decision in July 2016. Yes, Chilemba has lost three of his last four fights, but in his most recent outing he traveled to Australia and out-pointed Blake Caparello to earn this second crack at the brass ring.

Stepping Up His Game

Entering his most recent fight against Sullivan Barrera this past March, it was thought that the Cuban represented Bivol's sternest test as a pro. But while the fight got to the 12th, it didn't get through the 12th as a huge right to the temple dropped the 36-year-old challenger and inflicted enough damage that referee Harvey Dock stopped the bout at the 1:41 mark. Up until then Bivol had been dominant. Not only did he lead big on the scorecards (109-100 on all three score sheets), Bivol out-landed Barrera 247-75 overall and 146-65 power thanks to his magnificent jab (34.6 attempts/8.4 connects per round, 24% accuracy), which produced a 97-10 connect gap and helped him produce accuracy gaps of 31%-13% overall and 39%-24% power. Moreover, Barrera barely touched Bivol with his own jab as he landed just 10 of his 333 attempts (3%) and he failed to reach double-digit connects in terms of overall punches (his best was eight in rouhnds six and nine) while Bivol achieved 20 or more total connects eight times, including six rounds in a row (rounds 6-11).

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Bivol's supremacy against Barrera is only a continuation of what he has done at the world-class level. Including the Barrera fight, Bivol has faced opponents with a combined .900 winning percentage (117-12-1), and in those bouts he threw more (60.3 vs. 40 per round), landed more 18.9 to 5.6 total connects per round, 6.8 vs. 1.3 landed jabs per round and 12.1 to 4.3 power connects per round) and did so more accurately (31%-14% overall, 22%-6% jabs, 42%-22% power).

The Perpetual Underdog

In virtually every fight of importance, Chilemba has been cast as the "opponent." Thanks to his fundamentally sound, jab-heavy style, he has upset the applecart as he surprised the 20-0 Doudou Ngumbu (W 12), drew with the 13-0 Thomas Oosthuizen in South Africa, beat the 19-0 Maksim Vlasov (W 10), drew with future cruiserweight titlist Tony Bellew in the first of their two fights, out-boxed the 17-0 Vasily Lepikhin and, in his most recent outing, decisioned Blake Caparello in Australia. But he has endured more than his share of heartbreaks as he lost a majority decision to Eleider Alvarez in Canada despite out-landing the home favorite 151-147 overall, lost the rematch against Bellew when his second-rally rally fell short and lost decisively to Kovalev (L 12) and Oleksandr Gvozdyk (KO by 8 due to a right elbow injury).

In assessing Chilemba's game, it begins and ends with his tremendous jab. In his five victories against Vlasov, Edison Miranda, Michael Gbenga, Denis Grachev and Lepikhin, he averaged 36.5 attempts and 8.8 connects per round, out-threw his foes 68.1 to 46.6 per round and produced excellent percentage gaps of 36%-22% overall, 24%-15% jabs and 49%-27% power). But in his four losses to Bellew (rematch), Alvarez, Kovalev and Gvozdyk, his opponents managed to keep Chilemba's jab in check (27.3 attempts/4.5 connects per round, 17% accuracy), which, in turn, limited his output (50.2 per round for Chilemba, 54.3 for the opponents) and accuracy (24% overall, 33% power to his opponents' 27% and 31% respectively). Chilemba also landed fewer total punches per round (11.9 to his foes' 14.4 overall and 7.5 to 8.7 in terms of power connects per round). So, if Bivol can disrupt Chilemba's jab -- especially with his own -- he will greatly enhance his chances of retaining his title and resuming his excellent run.

Inside The Numbers

Bivol (last 4 fights) is busier than the avg. light heavy (63 thrown per round) and landed 30.4% of his total punches, 7.3 jabs per round and 42.4% of his power shots. Opponents landed a measley 5.4 punches per round (13.6%) and just 4 power shots per round (22.2%).  One blemish: only 16.8% of his landed punches are body shots (CompuBox avg.: 24.2%). Chilemba (last 8 fights) landed 6.9 jabs per round (threw 33.4) and landed 40.4% of his power shots. His defense is better than avg., as opponents landed just 28.3% of their power shots- (7.3 per round)

Prediction

Bivol is younger by three-and-a-half years, but his deep amateur background makes up for Chilemba's longer tenure as a pro as well as his superior quality of opposition. Also, Bivol possesses an excellent jab that could neutralize Chilemba's, and once Chilemba loses the jab, he loses everything else because he lacks the shot-for-shot power to earn Bivol's respect. The early rounds should see plenty of thinking, but once Bivol finds his range he will assert his superiority. The gap could be wide enough for Bivol to score the first injury-free TKO against Chilemba, probably after the halfway mark.