Dmitry Bivol largely dominated the action today in Abu Dhabi, retaining his WBA light heavyweight title by wide unanimous decision scores against Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez.
The judges officially had it 117-111, 117-111, and 118-110 for Bivol. Bad Left Hook’s unofficial card was 118-110 in Bivol’s favor.
Bivol (21-0, 11 KO) just never let Ramirez (44-1, 30 KO) get into any sort of rhythm in this fight, and dictated the pace and geography of the bout pretty much from the get-go. After a somewhat tentative start in the first three rounds — where you arguably could have shaded two rounds to Ramirez — it was pretty much the Bivol show the rest of the way, other than a 10th round that he seemed to take off to keep some gas in the tank for the 11th and 12th frames.
Ramirez, a former super middleweight titlist, has had his opposition criticized over the years, and his step up to facing a guy everyone considers true top tier just didn’t go well. This is no indication that Ramirez can’t fight, but it was clear that he was a level below Bivol in this fight, which most fighters are.
As for Bivol, this caps an outstanding year, one that took him from “good boxer and titleholder” to “legitimate elite fighter.” His win over Canelo Alvarez in May opened a lot of eyes, and this fight had a fairly good amount of buzz because of that, and once again, Bivol displayed his excellent skills in a clear victory.
“They are two really different fighters. Before the fight with Canelo, I spent a lot of energy to be confident in preparation. Before this fight, I was relaxed,” Bivol said.
Asked about being the one on the front foot for much of the fight, Bivol said, “The lion is not the biggest animal in the jungle, but he is king. Yeah, ‘Zurdo’ is bigger than me — it doesn’t matter.”
“I proved myself, that I can beat the best guys in the world,” he said of this year, then turned his attention to his repeated goal to fighting Artur Beterbiev.
“Now I want another guy who doesn’t know what losing is. I have a goal, I want to be undisputed champion. It all depends on me.”
Bivol made it clear that he absolutely wants Beterbiev next, and not a money rematch with Canelo Alvarez. Beterbiev, who holds the WBC, IBF, and WBO titles, owes Anthony Yarde a mandatory title shot, which is currently expected to land on Jan. 28. That could make for an opening on the Bivol side to fight in the early spring, with a potential Bivol vs Beterbiev fight in the back portion of 2023.
But time will tell on all that. For now, Bivol is a leading candidate for Fighter of the Year, and he has no intention to slow down with his ambition.
Bivol vs Ramirez highlights
Chantelle Cameron UD-10 Jessica McCaskill
Scores were 96-94, 96-94, and 97-93. Cameron retains the WBC and IBF titles, and adds the previously vacant WBA and WBO titles. McCaskill remains undisputed champ at 147.
A tale of two fights here; Cameron dominated six rounds, McCaskill got back into it in the final four. I also scored it 96-94 for Cameron, the first six her way, the last four McCaskill’s way, but even though that’s officially a Close Score, I don’t think McCaskill had any argument for a draw, let alone a win. She so clearly lost those first six, and it’s not like the last four were all clearly hers, either.
Cameron (17-0, 8 KO) looked genuinely two classes above McCaskill (12-3, 5 KO) in the first half of this fight, but McCaskill is a warrior, and she did not give up on this fight. She kept being awkward, kept rushing, and once she actually got her jab going a bit, she was able to find some success behind that.
McCaskill, again, still has all the belts up at welterweight, but this was also the last fight on her Matchroom deal, and a sad truth is that there is really nothing interesting for her at 147. Her fight in June with Alma Ibarra was about as good a fight as was left at welterweight, and it wound up somewhere between sad and embarrassing. Will Matchroom want to put money into, like, McCaskill vs Ivana Habazin? Will anyone major, even if it is UNDISPUTED? We’ll see. You hope so, because McCaskill is a hard-working, tough fighter who makes for fun fights, but the options for her at 147 are really limited at the moment.
Cameron may face Kali Reis, who previously held the WBA and WBO belts, if Reis comes back to boxing. Her team says she’s dealing with “ongoing health issues,” and she also has a legitimate acting career to go into, as she’s signed on to be in the next season of HBO’s “True Detective” in a key role, not just in a cameo in one episode or anything, and the movie she did (Catch the Fair One) got good reviews, and her performance in particular was widely praised.
So we’ll see. Cameron could also be in line to get the Katie Taylor fight she’s wanted for years, as Eddie Hearn recently mentioned her along with Alycia Baumgardner as potential Dublin options for Taylor next if Matchroom can’t make the Taylor vs Amanda Serrano rematch.
Shavkat Rakhimov TKO-9 Zelfa Barrett
An unfortunate sort of ending, at least on the surface, as it looked like Barrett (28-2, 16 KO) suffered a possible knee injury — something with his right leg, anyway — in round nine, which made him basically a sitting duck for Rakhimov (17-0-1, 14 KO), who dropped Barrett twice and put him away.
The win gives Rakhimov the IBF 130 lb title, which was vacant coming in, and he’ll be ordered to face former titlist Joe Cordina, who won it earlier this year, then was stripped because he got hurt and couldn’t make the defense on this date against Rakhimov, who was mandatory challenger.
But Rakhimov had to come off the canvas in round three here, himself, and Barrett was boxing basically as well as you could have hoped in this fight, sort of maximizing his style and what he does, landing good counters, moving a lot. Rakhimov kept the pressure up, though, and from the fourth round on was having more success than Barrett, who also was getting tired by the time things went awry.
The towel was coming in from Barrett’s corner as soon as Rakhimov scored the second knockdown. The referee actually didn’t see that, but was making the stoppage himself all the same.
Rakhimov vs Cordina would have been a good matchup on this date, will be a good one whenever they get it done in 2023. Zelfa Barrett also looked like a legit contender in this fight; we had him up 76-75 at the time of the stoppage, though the momentum was largely in Rakhimov’s favor by that point. I get the sense Rakhimov, had this gone the distance, would have wound up grinding out a win, but you still hate to see any fight end like this, especially two guys fighting to win their first world title in a back-and-forth bout.
More results and highlights
- Galal Yafai SD-10 Gohan Rodriguez: A good, competitive fight. Judges had it 96-94 and 96-95 on two cards for Yafai (3-0, 2 KO), and 96-95 for Rodriguez (12-2-1, 1 KO). If Rodriguez could punch, this fight might have looked different. Yafai, 29, gets hit a lot, and is old for a “prospect,” thus it’s much less likely he’s going to shore up his flaws than it would be if he were 20 or 21. He is pretty much the fighter he’s going to be, and only minor tweaks are likely to be made, none of which are going to turn him into a defensive genius or anything. But I thought he won this fight solidly, though he earned it the whole way, as we scored it 97-93 for Yafai on our unofficial card. He is a good fighter. Will he be world-level? Maybe, maybe not, but he’s got the ambition, and he knows his age, too, he’s not out here trying to build up a 20-0 record against scrubs.
- John Lawrence Ordonio UD-4 Majid Al Naqbi: Meant to be a showcase for Dubai local Al Naqbi, but instead was a rout in favor of Ordonio, a 25-year-old Filipino club fighter who badly exposed how ill-prepared Al Naqbi was to face his first-ever opponent with a winning record. Ordonio (8-4-1, 4 KO) is no great shakes, but he put what he had into these four rounds and Al Naqbi (7-1, 4 KO) just couldn’t really do anything with him. Almost everyone was braced for the robbery — either an Al Naqbi win or a draw — and then we got the fair and honest decision. Scores were 39-37, 40-36, and 40-36.
- Kal Yafai UD-10 Jerald Paclar: The crowd booed this decision, but the judges got it right, I think, and scored well at 95-94, 96-93, and 96-93 for Yafai. Bad Left Hook also had it 96-93 for Yafai (27-1, 15 KO) hadn’t fought since getting smashed by Chocolatito Gonzalez in early 2020, and started terribly here, dropped and nearly finished in the fist round. I thought Paclar (16-6-3, 9 KO) won the first three rounds, but also missed his best window by not finishing within those rounds. And then I thought Yafai won the rest of the fight, grinding it out for the decision. This was Yafai not just coming in from a long layoff, but moving up to bantamweight, sort of, because he weighed nearly 121 lbs, almost three over the bantamweight limit. He’s 33 and this fight probably should not have been the competition it was if you’re hoping for Kal to win a world title at bantamweight, but with a good chance those belts all go vacant by the end of the year or early in 2023, he could get moved into a favorable vacant title situation, too. But no, this was not a hugely promising return.