With the sudden retirement of Andre Ward, the three light heavyweight title belts he united by twice defeating Sergey Kovalev are being claimed. The WBA belt, in particular, has been in flux: Badou Jack won the belt by stopping Nathan Cleverly, then suddenly vacated it, prompting the WBA to promote its "interim" titlist, Dmitry Bivol, to "full" champion. With that promotion Bivol becomes the second Kyrgyzstan native to win a major boxing titlist (former WBA lightweight king Orzubek Nazarov was the first) and will now make his first defense against Australia's Jeff Broadhurst, who is vying to become the first Australian light heavyweight titlist since Jeff Harding.
Bivol has been quite dominant in amassing his 11-0 (9 KO) record. for he's thrown more (58.7 per round to his foes' 46.1), landed more (16.6 vs. 5.3 total connects per round, 6.9 to 1.6 landed jabs per round, 9.7 vs. 3.7 power connects per round) and did so at a far higher percentage (28%-12% overall, 21%-7% jabs, 38%-15% power). Bivol has increased the level of opposition in his last three fights and it was thought that the 29-2 Cedric Agnew could reveal some hidden flaws. No such luck. Agnew barely got a punch off as he averaged just 12.4 punches per round to Bivol's 71 and was out-landed 69-13 overall, 20-10 jabs and 49-3 power. Bivol landed 52% of his power shots to Agnew's 27% but, interestingly, Agnew was more accurate overall (30%-28%) and in jabs (31%-13%).
That only adds to the frustration because had Agnew been more willing to engage he might have been able to administer a proper test. Will Broadhurst be able to do what Agnew was unwilling to try?
Broadhurst has a deep athletic background as he merged schoolboy rugby with his amateur boxing career, which officially started at age ten (the minimum legal age). At 15 he made boxing his lone sport and in his two fights against Rob Powdrill (KO 8) and Michal Ludwiczak (W 8) he showed himself to be a formidable body puncher as he scored two knockdowns in the seventh against Ludwiczak with rights to the flanks and adding another with a left hook the stomach with his final punch of the fight. Also, a body shot set up the final flurry in stopping Powdrill. What was more impressive was Broadhurst's combination punching and especially his jab against Powdrill, which produced a sensational 14.1 connects per round (nearly triple the 4.9 light heavyweight average). In stopping Powdrill, Broadhurst led 178-59 overall, 105-11 jabs and 73-48 power and created percentage gaps of 44%-11% overall, 41%-4% jabs and 51%-18% power while the numbers were similar against Ludwiczak (174-52 overall, 38-3 jabs, 136-49 power; 41%-15% overall, 21%-2% jabs, 54%-23% power).
Both fights, however, were matched in Broadhurst's favor as Powdrill was a part-time Muay Thai and MMA fighter with just seven pro boxing matches under his belt while Ludwiczak had gone 2-3 in his last five fights. Bivol represents a vast step up in competition as well as a quantum leap in terms of travel as he is fighting outside Australia for the first time in his pro career.
Inside the Numbers
Bivol has blown away his last 3 opponents (Agnew, Clarkson, Berridge- who ko'd Broadhurst), landing 18.1 punches per round to just 5.2 for his KO victims. Broadhurst, making a huge step up in class, landed 53.3% of his power shots and 8.9 jabs per round vs. unknowns Ludwiczak and Powdrill.
Domestic observers deem Broadhurst to be a bright prospect who is ready to burst onto the world stage. While he's athletic, well-schooled and boasts two-fisted power, he hasn't encountered someone with the experience and skill set of Bivol. The culture shock, both geographically and in sport, will be massive. Powdrill briefly wobbled Broadhurst with a hook he didn't see. If Bivol hurts him, he'll finish him. And Bivol will hurt him. Bivol by TKO.