After just 11 pro fights, Dmitry Bivol is being hailed as yet another “next big thing.” That label may or may not stick. But what we do know is that Bivol is an electrifying boxer with enormous power, fast hands, and an aggressive, crowd-pleasing style.
“We’ll have to wait and see if he proves to be just that,” says Roy Jones Jr., the former four-division world champion and HBO commentator. “I like his skills and power. Bivol is very offensive minded. But I think he needs to work on his D. He comes very straight ahead.”
The Russian light heavyweight will get the chance to add to his hype when he takes on Trent Broadhurst this Saturday live from Monte Carlo on HBO Boxing After Dark 5:45 PM ET/PT (with a replay at 9:45 PM ET/PT).
Bivol (11-0, 9 KOs) comes into this fight off of three straight fourth-round TKOs in which he overwhelmed his opponents with a combination of power and the fast hands more typical of a boxer in the lower weight classes. Not surprisingly, Bivol lists his two favorite boxers as Sugar Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr.
“I think he liked us because we both had speed and power,” Jones says. “We were exciting. I think Bivol wants to be an exciting fighter.”
So far he’s been exactly that. As Jones says, Bivol comes straight forward working behind a punishing jab. He has knockout power in both hands, works upstairs and downstairs and often throws four and five punch combos so fast it’s hard to see all the shots coming.
“The problem for his opponents,” Jones says, “is that any one of those punches can take you out.”
Like Gennady Golovkin, the 26-year-old Bivol seems to strike fear in the hearts of his opponents. That was obvious in his last two fights against Cedric Agnew and Samuel Clarkson. Both boxers kept their gloves up in front of their face from the opening bell and rarely came out of their shell to throw a punch.
“His power took Agnew right out of the fight,” Jones says. “Agnew had his shield up right away.”
By the time referee Russell Mora stepped in to stop the fight in the fourth round, Bivol had out landed Agnew 69-13 in total punches and 49-3 in power punches. It was just the second time in Agnew’s 10-year career he had been knocked out. The only other boxer besides Bivol to put him away was Sergey Kovalev, and it took Kovalev seven rounds to do it.
“I tried to open him up,” Bivol said of Agnew after the fight. “But for some reason he didn’t want to go. He was very closed up, very defensive, and going back.”
Broadhurst (20-1, 12 KOs) is something of an unknown, not having boxed outside of his native Australia. Aussie Jeff Horn, who made waves by outpointing Manny Pacquiao in a controversial decision, had also fought all of his bouts in Australia before taking on the Filipino. But Jones doesn’t think it’s valid to compare the 29-year-old Broadhurst with Horn. "Horn was a much more accomplished fighter when he fought Pacquiao,” Jones says. “He had more to offer coming into that fight.”
Despite Bivol’s fearsome reputation, Broadhurst doesn’t appear to be intimidated. In a September 25 post on Instagram Broadhurst wrote: “Bivol has become one of the most feared fighters in the world. I know this but it means nothing to me! He is human just like myself. I am working overtime and will leave no stone upturned in my quest to become world champion.”
Like Bivol, Broadhurst comes forward and tries to mix it up. “Broadhurst is going to come right at Bivol, and Bivol is going to be coming at him,” Jones says. “It should make for an exciting fight that way. But I don’t think it’d be wise for Broadhurst to go toe-to-toe with Bivol.”
Broadhurst is well aware of how both Agnew and Clarkson hid behind a high-glove defense and didn’t throw many punches. The Aussie hinted that you won’t see that from him. He recently tweeted, "You Miss 100% of the shots you don’t take."
Bivol has had good success dealing with high-glove defenses. His power is such that against his last two opponents his jab easily penetrated through their gloves. His superior hand speed also enabled him to throw sweeping left and right hooks to the head, punching around the gloves. Another tactic the Russian uses against the shell defense is to pound his opponent’s arms until they tire and the guard eventually starts to come down.
Despite the fact the Aussie has double the number of pro fights that Bivol has, the Russian doesn’t think there’s any edge in experience. “In my first couple fights in the pros, I was worried about experience,” Bivol says. “Later on I could see that I could be there with anybody. I fought and sparred with many guys in the pros, and I have 300 amateur fights (285-15), and I realized that experience is not a problem for me.”
What would Broadhurst have to do to win? “There are two possible things he can try,” Jones says. “One, he has to push and push and make Bivol move backward. The other thing is to take Bivol into the later rounds. We haven’t seen Bivol go into the later rounds much.” Not much, but the Russian has been past the fourth round three times, going the distance in eight, 10, and 12- round fights.
Lacking the power to knock Bivol out, and not being an especially slick boxer, it’s hard to make a case for Broadhurst derailing the “next big thing.” If Bivol beats Broadhurst, there are tougher challenges ahead in the loaded light heavyweight division. The Russian’s manager, Vadim Kornilov, is aware of that. “We're not in a rush,” Kornilov said before Bivol fought Agnew. “We want to go step by step. Even though I am confident and I think he is ready to fight a world champ now, I'm not in a rush.”