It sounds like a normal line, almost a throwaway, but it’s not.
When heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol said, “Boxing is not just about hitting, it’s about defense as well,” he meant it, and our conversation took off immediately.
Instead of discussing the merits of his next opponent, Gilberto ‘Zurdo’ Ramirez, we are talking about the dangers of Bivol’s career. Bivol moves smoothly and clearly into these confusing areas due to an undeniable gameplay element. More than that, the side effects of boxing and the damage that comes with it is something that he often thinks about.
“Yes, for us,” said Bivol. “I know you can get damaged. I have two friends… one is a boxer who loves, loves the country, who died from boxing and I have a friend, Maxim Dadashev… I knew him since I was a child. He died because of a fight, because he suffered a lot of damage.”
The famous Russian big man Dadashev died due to the injuries he suffered after his first loss to Subriel Matias, in 2019.
But it is not only through loss that Bivol knows the danger, since his beginning in sports.
“When my father came to boxing, every time I hurt someone or I was in a fight he told me, ‘If you punch too many, I’ll throw in the towel.’ Even if you win the fight,” said Bivol. “I don’t need my son to take too many punches. It’s okay.”
Now, Bivol started talking about his wife and two boys. He thought about his children’s boxing, and considered whether he liked them or not. Instead of getting rid of that, he paused and said: “Actually, if they fight like this [Floyd] Mayweather, I’ll be happy. If they fight like Arturo Gatti, please no. I respect Arturo Gatti, he is a legend, but not many people can fight like him and stay healthy.
Bivol went out of his way to honor Gatti. He is not trying to take away what Gatti did or who he was as a fighter, but he is aware of the threat of damage – both long and short term.
This plays into the way he fights and the kind of boxer he has become. Bivol is 20-0 (11) and is coming off a career win, over Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. He is 31 years old and is one of the best properties in boxing, but instead of talking about fame, glory or even the fight of Canelo, we are talking about the dangers of boxing a little bit, which brings us to the fans who love to fight.
“You can fight the good fight and not beat yourself up, too,” Bivol said. “You can. Maybe it’s harder than [to] forget everything, and listen to your emotions and just fight, but thinking about defense, thinking about how not to get hit and hit your shot is a difficult thing. ”
In the end, Bivol’s hard work leading up to this point will count for little if he comes up short against former middleweight champion Ramirez. Bivol said he is happy, looking forward to the challenge and is happy to compete in Abu Dhabi on November 5.
Asked how life has changed since winning the boxing match against Canelo, the unassuming and polite Bivol replied, “It’s changed a little bit. I got this fight and it was a good thing, and a lot of people recognized me on the street. I haven’t changed. People change, the way they treat me. “
It’s not the fame Bivol wants, though, it’s the respect for how he goes about his business in the ring he loves.
“Of course, I want people to recognize me not just as a person who comes from somewhere, they recognize me as a professional boxer,” he said. “I want to be respected. I don’t just want to be famous. I want to do my job and people respect me for that. That makes me happy.”
And they do. Bivol’s win over Canelo dictates there is no desire for a rematch. Instead, fight fans dreamed of Bivol being matched up against a top heavyweight in Artur Beterbiev,
“This is a fight that makes me happy,” said Bivol. “This is a belt fight and that’s what I want. It’s nothing about Beterbiev [personally], it’s not just about him, it’s about his belts. I had a dream to be the undisputed champion and I still have that dream. I know it myself. When I was an amateur boxer in the national team, we were on the same side but he was there before me. We were together for two years and then he left. We are not friends; we just know each other”.
And Bivol said that they shared the ring, but he was just walking around with each other; not something you can think of as sparring.
“We were together in the ring but I can’t say it was scary because we were in different weight classes; he was a cruiserweight, I was a middleweight,” Bivol recalled. “Maybe three or two times we trained together but it didn’t work out [full] surprise.”
But first things first and 44-0 Ramirez is determined to jump over the line at 175lbs with a win over Bivol. The WBA champion usually respects the southern Mexican champion.
“He’s a good fighter because he has 44 wins in 44 fights, he’s got a good body punch, he puts a lot of weight, he’s got confidence,” Bivol said. “I think, first of all, it will be a great fight because we all want to win. We both don’t know what a loss is, and when people match each other it’s amazing. I want to fight him for maybe three years or four ago and I said to my team, ‘Let’s do this fight.’ First of all, he was a champion at super-middleweight… I want to fight another champion, and he is undefeated, it is a challenge for me.”
The good news for Bivol fans is that it doesn’t feel like it has scratched the surface of what it can achieve. The bad news for Ramirez is that Bivol wants to beat him next week.
“What do I want to achieve?” Bivol asked jokingly. “First of all, I want to realize my abilities and potential. I think there is still a lot to figure out. Second, of course, I want more belts. I want to make history and I want to be remembered in boxing as a great boxer, as a great boxer and I want to introduce as many people as possible to boxing, because sometimes people see fights and they want to do the same thing. They want to take their kids to the gym and do the same things.”
Which not only brings us back to the big picture, to the damage and everything we discussed, but to the reason for it. Because before he becomes a champion, a fighter and an opponent, he is a father first, and this is the most valuable job.
“I have a family, I have a wife, two children, two sons, and of course my work, my training and my boxing help my family too,” said Bivol. “I earn money. I can spend it on my family. I can spend it on education for my children and the future for my family. My boxing helps me show my children how to achieve something.”
And that means he sees that as a risk worth taking.