Dmitry Bivol will return to defend his WBA light heavyweight title Saturday on DAZN, as he returns to Russia to take on Umar Salamov in the main event from Yekaterinburg.
Bivol (18-0, 11 KO) hasn’t fought in his home country since a 2017 win over Robert Berridge, after which he moved his career mainly to the U.S., also fighting in Monaco and the United Kingdom. He’s also had what has turned into a fairly quiet title reign, which you can say stretches back to 2016, when he first won the interim WBA title, along the way being promoted up to “world” and now “super world” status, and being the top WBA titleholder in the division since Andre Ward retired in 2017.
Salamov (26-1, 19 KO) is a clear underdog, a fellow Russian who has also tried to base his career more in the U.S., but has wound up fighting mainly at home anyway since 2018, with his last five fights all coming in Russia.
Does Bivol retain his belt again and keep hunting for something bigger, or can Salamov cause a big upset at 175 lbs?
Scott Christ (60-22)
Before I fall asleep even thinking about watching another Dmitry Bivol fight against another opponent who doesn’t seem to have much hope of sincerely challenging him, let me assure you that I do indeed have great respect for his sound fundamentals and highly effective approach to achieving victory in his boxing matches.
I think this is a perfectly decent fight, honestly, but the 175 lb division has very few names at the moment who truly interest me as Bivol opponents, and Salamov isn’t on the list with Beterbiev, Zurdo, and Callum Smith. Salamov will have some physical advantages in height and reach, but will he be able to use them? Will they really matter? I just don’t think so. Bivol is too sound, too smart, and too completely willing to poke and pepper his way to a decision win, which he’ll do. Bivol UD-12
Wil Esco (66-16)
It‘s been a couple years since Dmitry Bivol was riding high after his win over Joe Smith Jr, but since then he’s taken a step down in competition which has me curious if he’ll be fully prepared for a big time challenge once it presents itself. Against Salamov I think Bivol will be facing a tough opponent but not one that he shouldn’t be able to handle.
Bivol isn’t the most dynamic fighter when it comes to his approach, but he’s very fundamentally sound in what he does and that makes it difficult to close down the range on him without taking long punches thrown with good leverage. Against a more versatile and talented fighter I think Bivol will struggle more to impress with his staccato style, but this is a big step up for Salamov and I think he comes up short. Bivol UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg (67-15)
For Salamov’s sake, that shoddy performance against Sergei Ekimov this past April better have been due to rust. His lack of speed and head movement were on full display, while the finishing ability that ended five of his previous six bouts inside the distance was nowhere to be seen. Bivol may have a bad habit of never leaving cruise control, but his timing, fluidity, and hand speed look tailor-made to tee off on Salamov’s stationary dome while the younger man tries and fails to get his body attack going.
As with most of the opponents he’s faced so far, the stoppage is probably there if Bivol wants it. Even if he did struggle late against Richards, Salamov’s far too easy a target to have any hope of wearing Bivol down. Unless he decides to make a statement, Bivol’s razor-sharp counters halt Salamov’s advance in its tracks and allow Bivol to take a comfortable victory. Bivol UD-12