Canelo Alvarez lost to Dmitry Bivol on Saturday. There is no controversy — other than thinking the judges had it too close — and there is no other way to put it than to say that Dmitry Bivol was the better fighter, simple as that.
So I want to actually apologize, in a way, to Dmitry Bivol, for titling this post the way we have. “What’s next for Canelo Alvarez?” is the lead question there. Canelo’s in the lead photo, looking defeated and forlorn. And that’s because the story for many is just as much “Canelo lost” as it is “Bivol won.” And while we’re not paid by the click because this isn’t actually isn’t 2002 anymore, the truth is, to maximize readership, Canelo is the lead.
OK, so now you’re here. And let me repeat it: Dmitry Bivol beat Canelo Alvarez last night because Dmitry Bivol was better than Canelo Alvarez last night.
Will they rematch immediately?
The main topic on minds now as far as what comes next is, of course, a rematch. It was mentioned in the post-fight interviews in the ring, that Canelo (57-2-2, 39 KO) has a rematch clause for another fight with Bivol (20-0, 11 KO).
That brings us back to the star factor; normally, a challenger — Canelo was the challenger here, Bivol came in with the WBA belt — doesn’t have that sort of thing. But Canelo is the money guy. He’s the big cheese. And he gets concessions the average good or even great fighter won’t.
In short, Canelo and his team wanted to make sure they’d have a chance to run it back at their discretion, if indeed Bivol got the win. Well, Bivol got the win, and now Canelo has the clause there if he wants it.
The truth is, the clause doesn’t have to be exercised for us to see a rematch, at least eventually. There were already plans in place for Canelo to return to 168 lbs in September to face Gennadiy Golovkin in a long-awaited, many feel too far overdue trilogy bout. They fought in 2017 and 2018 at middleweight, with a controversial draw the first time and a controversial Canelo win in the rematch. To this day, many believe Golovkin won both fights.
My personal belief is that’s still the fight to do. I said the same a couple times leading up to Canelo vs Bivol, that Canelo didn’t have to beat Bivol for a third fight with Golovkin in September to still be a big money fight. It will be. Boxing can be sold a variety of different ways, and Canelo and GGG still have a long-standing rivalry. It will make money. Not as much as it might have, maybe, but then again maybe it still will. Dmitry Bivol has nothing to do with that fight. It is entirely about the animosity between Alvarez and Golovkin.
I also think that a direct rematch with Bivol is just a bad idea. Nothing about Saturday’s fight told me that Canelo can beat Bivol right now. I think he’s a proud man and would, if he were to fight and beat Golovkin in September, definitely still want the Bivol rematch. You can do that again in May 2023, and it will be bigger than this fight was, because the Canelo fans are going to be even more invigorated, hoping to see their guy get his “revenge,” and way more people are going to believe that Bivol can win. You know, because he’s already done it. Convincingly.
What if Canelo doesn’t rematch Bivol immediately?
We have no way of knowing how this loss will affect Canelo. Losing to Floyd Mayweather made him a better fighter nine years ago. He learned some lessons there. I also think his close fights with Erislandy Lara and GGG, in particular, made him a better fighter than he was before those fights.
But he’s not 22 anymore, as he was against Mayweather. He’s not in his 20s at all. While he’s not old, he’s definitely a lot richer and a lot more content. Canelo has often spoken about needing fights he thinks are challenges, legacy-builders, to continue to motivate him. He doesn’t seem delusional about the fact that he’ll never be as “hungry” as he used to be, literally or metaphorically. He has to find the motivation in different ways.
Prior tough fights have seemed to motivate him. This one might, too. But he’s also an obscenely rich, 31-year-old golf nut now. I mean, to me, it doesn’t not matter. Maybe he just won’t have the mind set to come back from this the way he’s come back before.
Terms have been agreed for the Golovkin fight. That may be just the fight needed for him to get back in his groove. He’ll still be a clear favorite over a 40-year-old version of Golovkin, who has never really left his 160 lb comfort zone.
But I think this bears mentioning now more than ever. After GGG’s win over Ryota Murata in April, where he struggled a bit early and definitely looked like an older, faded version of himself, Matchroom promoter Eddie Hearn suggested that moving up to 168 at this age might actually help GGG greatly. He won’t be cutting any extra weight late in camp, he’ll be able to come in strong, all that.
It’s not to say that will definitely prove to be true, but Eddie Hearn — salesman or not (he is) — also was a guy who warned everyone not to look past Dmitry Bivol, that Bivol would be a sincerely tough challenge for Canelo. So it’s food for thought.
If it’s not Bivol, it’ll be GGG. Canelo may have it in writing that he can opt out of GGG to rematch Bivol, but I doubt he can opt out of both. The Golovkin team would have been insane to allow that into the contract after wanting that fight for almost four years.
What next for Bivol if not Canelo?
It’s a stone cold fact that the biggest fight out there for Bivol is an immediate rematch with Canelo, who is simply a far bigger name and star than anyone else possible for Bivol to fight.
Unless the clause is triggered quickly, then Bivol will surely have eyes on the June 18 unification fight between WBC/IBF titleholder Artur Beterbiev and WBO titlist Joe Smith Jr, which will air on ESPN. That promises to be an absolute blast of a fight, should be extremely hard-hitting and a rough one.
A lot of us have wanted to see Beterbiev vs Bivol — probably Bivol vs Beterbiev now, to be fair — for years. They’ve been in most minds the clear top two light heavyweights in the sport for a while now. They have clashing styles that could make for a thriller. It’s a fight we’ve speculated on and discussed and made predictions about for a long time now.
For what it’s worth, Bivol has already beaten Smith, but a rematch between those two would still be a big one if Smith beats Beterbiev, in part because it would be an undisputed championship fight. Smith has always wanted another shot at Bivol, still thinking he can beat him. He did hurt Bivol pretty notably, though otherwise Bivol mostly had his way.
Otherwise, the name options at 175, or even coming up from 168, are pretty limited, in all honesty. Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez might be the next-best option at 175; he wants to fight Bivol, or at least has said he does. Zurdo says lots of things, but also does things like leaving the company that has easy-to-make big fights for him to sign with Golden Boy and fight Yunieski Gonzalez and Dominic Boesel, so who knows?
168’s most attractive contender, a fighter who could come up, is David Benavidez, who is with PBC. There’s nothing of money interest at cruiserweight.
A crazy, left field wild card option would be Bivol fighting Golovkin. That would be a lot of contract stuff, surely, and GGG probably won’t want to fight at 175, but boxing can be wildly unpredictable at times, so at least it’s floated into the wind now ahead of time, in case it actually happens.
In theory, and this wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice, Bivol could take a fight with, say, Zurdo Ramirez in the fall, Canelo could fight GGG, and if they both win, they could do it again on Saturday, May 6, 2023.
We’ll see how it all goes down.