LAS VEGAS – Canelo Alvarez, six months after becoming the first fighter of the four-belt era to stand as undisputed super-middleweight champion, casts his attention to a light-heavyweight sweep Saturday night.
Meeting Russia’s unbeaten World Boxing Association champion Dmitry Bivol (19-0, 11 KOs), Mexico’s Alvarez (57-1-2, 39 KOs) returns to the 175-pound division after previously claiming a World Boxing Organization belt by knocking out veteran Sergey Kovalev, also of Russia, in 2019.
Bivol offers a more problematic challenge since he’s 31 – five years younger than Kovalev – wields a wicked jab and could out-weigh Alvarez by around 15 pounds following their post-weigh-in rehydration.
While four-division champion Alvarez has already agreed to take a trilogy bout in victory against his bitter rival Gennadiy Golovkin in September, he’s angling to meet next month’s three-belt light-heavyweight unification winner between Russia’s Artur Beterbiev and New York’s Joe Smith Jr. next year.
MORE CANELO: Alvarez chasing boxing history
USA TODAY Sports is ringside at T-Mobile Arena for the DAZN pay-per-view card, and will provide live round-by-round coverage of Alvarez-Bivol here with updates of the undercard bouts.
The main event is expected to start by 11:30 p.m. ET, with Tipico Sportsbook setting Alvarez as a -600 favorite while the over/under on rounds fought is 10.5, with the over standing as a -280 favorite.
ROUND 1: Following an extravagant entry that included a mariachi band playing, “The Final Countdown,” with fireworks sent skyward around him, Alvarez stood on an elevated platform and raised his right fist to his adoring crowd before striding to the ring, where Bivol awaited.
Bivol, making his eighth title defense, was booed at introduction while four-division champion and pound-for-pound king Alvarez, wearing pink trunks, was hailed.
Referee Russell Mora delivered final instructions, and the fight begins.
Bivol whips some jabs. Bivol landing more as Alvarez’s punches are getting blocked by the champion’s arms and gloves.
A hard Bivol combination delivers. Alvarez lands a late blow, but it was too late.
ROUND 2: Alvarez lands a right uppercut set up by a jab. Bivol sends in two good rights to the face.
Alvarez successfully delivers two hard rights to the head and another to the ribs. A fast Bivol combination gets Canelo’s attention.
He answers with a hard combination that closes with a right.
ROUND 3: Bivol delivers a right, Canelo answers with a combination.
Bivol’s power is the most legitimate Canelo has faced since Golovkin’s. Alvarez lands twice with Bivol backed to the ropes. Bivol comes off and lands a right.
Alvarez wings in a right and plants an uppercut with Bivol on the ropes.
Now, Alvarez goes a little rope-a-dope on Bivol to get him to waste some energy by missing punches.
ROUND 4: Canelo slaps in a right, then goes to the body. A repetitive Bivol combination is effective.
Alvarez is targeting Bivol’s left arm, to defuse that powerful jab.
After a Canelo right, Bivol lands a flurry with Canelo on the ropes.
Canelo bides his time and lands a right, followed by a hellacious right uppercut. That might’ve won him the round. Or not.
ROUND 5: Bivol has shown he’s capable of dishing out a disciplined attack. Left to the head. Right to the chest. Left to the body.
Alvarez responds with hard rights, looking to set up that crushing uppercut. A power right is followed by a wicked combination by Bivol.
Alvarez stuns the crowd by urging on more even though his head was clearly jarred by the attack. An Alvarez combination sends Bivol to the ropes.
ROUND 6: Alvarez opens with a straight right. Bivol snaps Canelo’s head with a right. Alvarez responds with a power-punching display.
Alvarez to the chest. Bivol left to the head. With Canelo on the ropes, they slow the action. Most inactive round yet, but clear there’s big drama to come.
ROUND 7: Bivol still jabbing away. Canelo smacks Bivol with body shots. Bivol corners Canelo and pounds him with a flurry.
Canelo delivers a hard right to the chest. Alvarez is breathing heavily. He’s in deep here and knows it.
A Bivol combination scores. Bivol backs Canelo to the ropes at the bell with another scoring attack.
ROUND 8: A hard Alvarez right opens the action. Bivol’s jab peppers.
An Alvarez right is answered by one from Bivol, then Bivol attacks with a combination.
Bivol appears far fresher, as Alvarez backs to the ropes, covering. Alvarez moves and lands rights to the body and head. Close round.
In the co-main event, Cleveland’s Montana Love toned down the drama of opposing knockdowns in the first two rounds and out-boxed Gabriel Gollaz through the bout’s remainder, claiming victory by three scores of 114-112.
Love met Gollaz with a knockdown punch in the first round, smacking him on top of the head as the Mexican lunged forward. But Love’s confidence was deflated early in the second, when Gollaz decked Love with a left to the face.
But the action veered to jeers from there, drawing complaints by a crowd craving more action before the main event.
Love improved to 18-0-1 in the 140-pound bout.
Chinese heavyweight Zhang Zhilei (24-0-1, 19 KOs) opened the pay-per-view portion of the card by delivering a massive left hand to the face, knocking out Scott Alexander 1 minute, 54 seconds into the first round. It was Zhang’s fourth punch.
Lightweight Marc Castro repeatedly found Puerto Rico’s Pedro Vicente with right hands, cruising to a victory by three unanimous-decision scores of 60-54, improving to 7-0.
In a meeting of main-event stablemates, Bivol’s Indio, Calif.-based gym partner Shakhram Giyasov rode three knockdowns of Christian Gomez to win a unanimous decision by scores of 99-88, 99-88, 98-89.
Starting deliberately, Giyasov (13-0) first dropped Gomez in the fourth round with a left hook to the head. Gomez, who trains alongside Alvarez in San Diego, rallied with some scoring blows in the fifth and sixth.
Giyasov then planted a right hand to the chin, dropping Gomez again in the seventh before Gomez again recovered rapidly, pressuring with a face shot that forced Giyasov to hold his foe’s waist in a bid to recover.
In the 10th, a Giyasov combination punctuated by a right uppercut sent Gomez (22-3-1) to the canvas once more, clinching the outcome.