Dmitry Bivol returned after a long layoff to successfully defend his WBA light heavyweight title, beating Craig Richards by unanimous decision today in Manchester, England.
Bivol (18-0, 11 KO) won on scores of 115-114, 115-113, and 118-110. The first two cards will draw some criticism for being too close, probably; Bad Left Hook had the fight 116-112 for Bivol, who swept the first eight rounds on our card before Richards (16-2-1, 9 KO) took the last four, mostly on work rate.
Richards, 31, really did himself proud with a solid performance in a big underdog spot where nobody was expecting him to be all that competitive, let alone win. And he certainly didn’t deserve the win here, but he held his own throughout. Even in the rounds he lost, he was second-best to Bivol but hardly being completely out-classed or terribly worked over or anything.
Bivol, 30, has shown a willingness to cruise in fights. We saw it from him last time out in 2019 against Lenin Castillo, who was very much over-matched against the Russian, and we saw some of it here, too. But to Bivol’s credit here, when Richards did have some success, Bivol was there to fire back. I don’t think a 7-5 card is an outrage, nor do I think a 10-2 card is hard to have. There were a few rounds where you were really picking who you think edged it and did the better work.
“He is a smart boxer, he thinks about what he’s going to do. After a year-and-a-half of rust, I think it was a normal performance for me,” Bivol said of Richards.
As for what’s next, Bivol definitely doesn’t want to sit around and wait forever this time, and says he’s willing to fight WBC/IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev, WBO titleholder Joe Smith Jr, or anyone else in the light heavyweight top 10 if Beterbiev and Smith unify, which some expect Top Rank will be trying to make happen.
“It doesn’t matter who wants to fight me, I’m open for everyone from the light heavyweight division.”
Johnny Fisher TKO-3 Phil Williams
Williams is a journeyman heavyweight, now 3-28-1 (1 KO), and this fight came together on just a few days’ notice, with Fisher (2-0, 2 KO) getting a spot on a big card.
It went about as expected. The 22-year-old Fisher is very raw, but he’s had some good sparring with Daniel Dubois and the like, and he’s got the size and some real raw power. He didn’t get Williams down here, but the 35-year-old veteran didn’t complain much when Howard Foster stepped in for the stoppage. He’d done his job, and given Fisher a few rounds of work.
“I’ve got lots of improvements to do, but it’s another win,” Fisher said. “I showed I can box for more than one round. That’s an important start. I’ve got to use the jab a little bit more; I’ve got a potent jab, but I didn’t use it enough.”
Jovanni Straffon TKO-1 James Tennyson
Tennyson’s hope to get into serious contention at 135 go down in flames here, as he went to toe-to-toe war with Mexico’s Straffon and, well, lost the shootout.
Tennyson (28-4, 24 KO) had been getting some hype in the UK media about his chances at world title fights at 135, and he can crack, but he’s also always been vulnerable with return fire, in part because his defense is leaky (or maybe he’s just indifferent to it). Once Straffon (24-3-1, 17 KO) proved capable of not crumbling on one shot from the 27-year-old home fighter, the war was on, and Tennyson broke first.
Tennyson went down and really was done there, barely any legs under him as he got back up, but referee Michael Alexander gave him a chance. The 27-year-old Straffon closed in and threw both hands, Tennyson on the ropes, and Alexander had no choice but to step in and stop it at 2:10.
Great little two-minute shootout to kick off a show, can’t argue with this sort of action. Tennyson’s game plan obviously wasn’t ideal for him, but on our end we got a little war from it, and we’ve got another pretty unknown Mexican fighter going to the UK and scoring a big win.