New Faces: Dmitry Bivol
Editor’s Note: This feature originally appeared in the November 2017 issue of THE RING Magazine
One by one, they arrive from Eastern Europe with dreams of making it in America. And it’s not too long before they’re dominating headlines.
Gennady Golovkin. Sergey Kovalev. Vasyl Lomachenko.
Specifically, the light heavyweight division has been a haven for fighters from the former Soviet Bloc. And now you can add another, one with the look of a man who will be champion before too long: Dmitry Bivol.
Much like the others, Bivol seemingly came out of nowhere. But now that he’s in our lives, it’s hard to turn away. You see, when Bivol lands flush – and as he develops, he’s more and more accurate with his sledgehammer right hand – fighters don’t last much longer after that.
He’s just 11 fights into his pro career but Bivol has already seen both the 10- and 12-round distances.
He was born to a Moldovan father and Korean mother in the small town of Tokmak, Kyrgyzstan, a country of approximately 6 million that borders Kazakhstan in Central Asia. Tokmak lies to the east of Bishkek, the country’s capital. Glass manufacturing is one of the top industries in the area.
Bivol discovered boxing when he was 6 years old and went on to become a decorated amateur with a record of 268-15.
He arrived in the United States in 2014 and has plowed through the competition from the beginning. He made his biggest impression in his last two fights, displaying the obvious talent of a future champion.
Samuel Clarkson was Bivol’s first victim of note on American television. Clarkson was stopped in four rounds on “ShoBox: The New Generation” in April. Bivol then forced former world-title challenger Cedric Agnew into a defensive shell before stopping him on his feet on the undercard of the Andre Ward-Kovalev rematch in June.
It took Kovalev seven rounds to take care of Agnew. Bivol needed just four.
Bivol admitted that “no doubt” he also was in Las Vegas to scout both fighters in the main event. Manager Vadim Kornilov, who also steers the careers of Denis Lebedev and Ruslan Provodnikov, said Bivol is ready for a world-title opportunity right now.
And you shouldn’t chalk that up to the usual managerial hyperbole.
The 26-year-old is only the latest Russian puncher to crash the 175-pound title scene but he also believes he’ll rise above the likes of Kovalev and Artur Beterbiev.
“The road to the international arena for Soviet fighters has opened only 20, 25 years ago,” Bivol, who admired Sugar Ray Leonard and Roy Jones Jr. growing up, said through Kornilov. “It was tougher back then and people were afraid of going out. I think now that it kind of has erupted, the fighters from the Soviet Union are finding motivation and perspective for themselves in the United States.”
Much like GGG and Kovalev, solid opponents aren’t exactly jumping at the opportunity to fight Bivol. And unlike the others, his defense has impressed to this juncture, even though the boxer-puncher fights in a similar, aggressive manner.
He’s already rated No. 9 by THE RING at light heavyweight. And with the WBA “interim” belt around his waist, he’ll soon earn a mandatory shot at the title.
One thing is clear: Bivol is on the fast track. He won’t be coddled. He’s ready to fulfill his vast promise now.
“I always had a feeling inside of me that I could make money and can become popular and can become something in boxing,” said Bivol, who has a calm demeanor. “I’ve had a couple of trainers throughout my career and almost every trainer always told me, ‘One day you can be something, you can be a star and you can make money doing this.’
“And I believed them. It kind of motivated me. And it put a thought inside me that has materialized.”
It’s likely fans will soon believe those trainers, too.
Weight class: Light heavyweight
Height: 6 feet (183 cm)
Hometown: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Record: 11-0 (9 knockouts)
Biggest strengths: Powerful puncher … Can break through guard with straight punches … Pressure-fighter who also possesses stout defense … Faced a former world-title challenger in 11th pro fight … Deep amateur background … Already has gone 12 rounds
Biggest question marks: Can he take a punch? … How will he respond to adversity in a tough fight?
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On the cover this month: Mikey Garcia