clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Who wins Canelo vs Bivol? Predictions, preview, analysis

Canelo Alvarez or Dmitry Bivol? Who wins on Saturday night?

If you buy something from an SB Nation link, Vox Media may earn a commission. See our ethics statement.

Who wins Canelo vs Bivol on Saturday? We break down the fight.
Who wins Canelo vs Bivol on Saturday? We break down the fight.
Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Canelo Alvarez returns to action on Saturday night, as the undisputed super middleweight champion challenges WBA light heavyweight titleholder Dmitry Bivol in a 12-round main event from Las Vegas, live on DAZN pay-per-view.

Will Canelo (57-1-2, 39 KO) keep his run going and maintain his spot as the recognized top pound-for-pound fighter in the sport today, or is Bivol (19-0, 11 KO) capable of handing Alvarez his first loss since 2013?

We’ve got our predictions in!

Bad Left Hook will have full live coverage and round-by-round updates for Canelo vs Bivol on Saturday, May 7, starting at 3:15 pm ET for the prelim undercard bouts and 8 pm ET for the main card.

Scott Christ (19-11)

Bivol can present some challenges here, at least on paper, at least what we’ve been able to scout of him against prior opponents, none of whom were as good as Canelo Alvarez, who is, oooh, a slight step up from Bivol’s last three of Lenin Castillo, Craig Richards, and Umar Salamov.

This isn’t to say Bivol has no Good Wins. None of those are bad wins, either, and he’s also beaten Joe Smith Jr, Jean Pascal, and Sullivan Barrera — and beaten them very, very clearly. The only “disappointments” of Bivol’s career to date, really, are that despite HBO’s early push of him, he did not wind up being a 175 lb Gennadiy Golovkin, and he hasn’t gotten a true Big Fight. Now he’s got a true Big Fight, and while he isn’t GGG stylistically, he is a genuine top fighter, arguably the best light heavyweight in the world today, and a guy whose jab and sound technical game, combined with superior size, could give Canelo some issues.

That said, Canelo has been in with bigger guys many times in his career. He knocked out Sergey Kovalev in what had been a pretty competitive fight. He dominated Callum Smith. He broke Billy Joe Saunders’ face. He stopped Caleb Plant. All of those guys, though, other than Smith, won some rounds. So did GGG, to say the least, and so did Daniel Jacobs. Others have, too, but frankly the Austin Trout or Erislandy Lara fights in 2013-14 are so far in the rearview that I don’t think they mean much of anything to the fighter Canelo is today.

If Bivol wins this fight, he’s going to have to push Canelo back, not just “get his respect” but actually be able to hurt him. Bivol’s no monster puncher, but he’s not feather-fisted, either, and it seems at times that he maybe even holds some of his power back in fights, like he’s not really committing to doing damage because he’s able to dominate without taking that kind of risk.

He is going to have to take that kind of risk here. The odds are against him this time, he’s not the favorite, and we’re not going to pretend there isn’t a legitimate advantage in being the A-side superstar and drawing card that Canelo Alvarez is. Canelo also has a style judges like, even if you don’t think it’s great corruption from the political powers of this businessport; the way he fights and the way he carries himself, his body language, almost always looks good. He never seems in any real distress. That’s why Bivol has to hurt him and back him off.

Otherwise, Bivol could win seven or eight rounds on your card or mine, and he’s probably not getting seven or eight rounds on two of three judges’ cards. Canelo is going to be Canelo if you let him. He will come forward, apply smart pressure, do anything he can to rack up damage — if the body and head are protected well enough, he’ll batter your arms until one of them isn’t, stuff like that — and he’ll look confident and in control at all times. I think he’ll get the decision here, and I think there will be plenty of people who argue for Bivol. This really should not be an easy fight for Canelo; if it is, either he’s even better than we think, or Bivol wasn’t as good as we thought. Canelo UD-12

Wil Esco (22-8)

I suppose I’ve already let my feelings about this fight be known since it was initially announced. I think Dmitry Bivol is one of the best technicians in the sport of boxing, but against elite level opposition small things can make a big difference. Bivol certainly has the advantage in that he’s a solid light heavyweight, is accustomed to fighting at this weight, and is naturally bigger than Canelo, but I think that’s just about where it ends for him. ‘Styles makes fights’ is a redundant cliche, but it holds true for a reason.

I expect Bivol to come out and win some early rounds using his long, active jab, but I think Canelo is going to catch on to Bivol’s tactics by the middle rounds because Bivol isn’t much of a creative puncher. His offense is almost entirely predicated on throwing ones, one-twos, and one-two-threes, and he attacks in straight lines when doing so. That, I don’t believe, is going to be effective for long enough against a fighter like Canelo who has good head movement and should surely have the advantage at mid-to-close ranges once he closes the distance. Now everyone brace yourselves because I’m going to make a Floyd Mayweather reference, so please bear with me momentarily.

The late, great Emanuel Steward once broke down what made Floyd so effective in his style and he mentioned that it’s because Floyd tirelessly trained in throwing sharp and straight punches combined with defending sharp and straight punches, and we later saw some of the fighters that gave Floyd the most trouble were those with unorthodox styles.

I specifically bring this up because I believe Canelo has taken a lot away from his loss to Mayweather, and I believe one of the lessons he learned was the importance and effectiveness of mastering the defense of traditional combinations reflexively. At this point in the development of Canelo’s career, and considering Bivol’s style, I think he’s going to see almost all of Bivol’s offense coming straight down the pipe and will eventually, somewhere in the second half of the fight, bait Bivol into throwing so he can slip off the line and counter with big power shots. I’m not certain Canelo will be able to stop Bivol, but I do think he’ll land the eye-catching shots that will win him more rounds than he’ll lose. I’m taking Canelo to win a majority decision. Canelo MD-12

John Hansen (24-6)

I don’t gamble, other than putting down minimum $2 bets whenever I’m at a horse track or playing tournament-style poker games that have buy-ins at very working class prices. But, I do love David Hill’s work about gambling and gamblers.

In a fantastic article he wrote about billiards years ago for Grantland, one of the subjects explained his belief that the actual pocketing of balls is largely incidental. Wins and losses are determined when making matches and negotiating terms.

Canelo Alvarez has fought his way to a point where he can basically fight anyone he wants, any time he wants, from any one of three or four different weight classes. Few boxers can pass on the financial windfall that comes from a Canelo fight. And Canelo uses that leverage to squeeze every possible advantage. Rehydration clauses. Same day weigh-ins. Catchweights. Short camps and quick turnarounds from your previous fight. A judging panel certain to include friendly, familiar faces from a very limited guest list with Steve Weisfeld, Dave Moretti, and/or Glenn Feldman right at the top.

Sometimes, a guy has enough leverage to push back against some or all of those edges, at least for a little while. Gennadiy Golovkin refused to entertain the nonsense of a 155 pound middleweight title fight. You may recall that Canelo threw away a belt and a LINEAL title over it. Eventually, Golovkin got old enough that Team Canelo surrendered that demand. In the interest of not re-litigating a pair of controversial decisions, let’s just say that Canelo held his own even on slightly more neutral terms than usual. Still, to get a potential third shot at Canelo, Golovkin had to wait until after his 40th birthday and agree to move up to 168 pounds.

When Caleb Plant refused to accept a fast turnaround, Canelo back burnered him and picked up three other belts at 168 pounds first. But, Canelo couldn’t call himself undisputed without facing Plant, so Plant had enough leverage to get the rest and full training camp he wanted. And Canelo knocked him out. Even without all the edges he originally demanded, Canelo had enough of an advantage to win the fight anyway.

None of this is to say that Canelo isn’t a supremely gifted, generational fighter, and a worthy contender for top pound-for-pound talent in the sport. Or to accuse him of ducking anyone in particular. This sort of leverage only lasts for as long as Canelo keeps winning and entertaining people along the way. Getting to this point was no coincidence, and staying there takes a lot of work.

But, no matter how talented Dimitry Bivol is (and he’s very good!), the fact remains that Canelo Alvarez wouldn’t be fighting him if Canelo didn’t feel the odds were tilted enough in his favor to make a Bivol fight more worthwhile than a Charlo fight, an Andrade fight, a Benavidez fight, a Beterbiev fight, a Makabu fight, a Spence fight, or any other Insert Name Here fight that would earn him just as much money at less risk and difficulty.

I believe that a good hustler knows his own game better than I do. Putting aside the ever-present possibility of something weird happening, the outcome is all but certain given that Canelo accepted the challenge. The only real question is how we get to it. I think Bivol is damn good, and very tough. So, give him full credit for both traits, and call it: Canelo UD-12

Patrick Stumberg (24-6)

You know what we’re overdue for? A controversial Canelo decision. Back in the day, we got Trout, Mayweather, and Lara in the span of 15 months, but now we’re closing in on four years since the second Golovkin fight. Luckily, Bivol looks like just the right man to revive that ancient tradition.

It’s not just the size; Bivol’s among the most technically adept fighters Canelo’s ever faced, and he avoids a lot of the pitfalls that doomed recent victims Callum Smith and Caleb Plant. He manages range extremely well, does an excellent job of not lingering inside behind his jab, and doesn’t get cornered easily. Canelo’s opportunities to really tee off on his midsection will be fewer and farther between than they’ve been in several years. At the same time, Bivol’s overly willing to sit in second gear, which is a deeply unfortunate tendency to have against Canelo. Beyond the sheer pressure he brings to the table, Canelo’s punches just look good, even when they fail to land cleanly. This is a style clash seemingly designed to produce statements like “well, it was close, but Canelo landed the more telling blows.”

I’m not saying Canelo can’t win decisively; he shuts down opponents’ jabs like few others and has consistently proven his ability to hurt larger men. Bivol just seems sharp enough to avoid getting GOOMed, but methodical enough to get narrowly outworked. Expect plenty of arguments over this one. Canelo SD-12

Quick Picks!

Montana Love vs Gabriel Valenzuela

  • Scott: Love UD-12
  • Wil: Love TKO-8
  • John: Love TKO-6
  • Patrick: Love UD-12

Listen to the latest episode of Prophets of Goom featuring our Canelo-Bivol preview and much more!

You can also listen on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, Amazon/Audible, Google, iHeart, Deezer, and several other apps. You can also directly download the MP3 here. There is NSFW language.