Bivol continued to use his left hand though, hitting Álvarez with spears on his body and head. Finishing five-punch combinations with left hooks also had an effect that the stats couldn’t measure. When Bivol punched, Álvarez would sit back and Bivol’s fist would whistle past his chin. The punches didn’t always land, but they removed Álvarez from a counter-strike position and allowed Bivol to re-establish his preferred range.
“I was the counter punch today,” Bivol said.
Late in the match, as previous Álvarez opponents faded, Bivol continued to punch. In the 11th round, he took down a fist, then Álvarez’s right hand, which was sweating off his head. On lap 12, another hard pressure forced Álvarez to retreat and regroup. He had been breathing heavily until then, depleted after spending his energy on powerful punches that didn’t stun Bivol.
“He just threw some hard punches,” Bivol said in English. “He got a little tired after the hard punches. Tired, tired.”
This defeat was the first time Álvarez had defeated Floyd Mayweather Jr. by decision in September 2013, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t knock him out. Before the fight, Álvarez acknowledged that Bivol would be much tougher than his previous opponents, and later said that gaining weight to fight as a light heavyweight may have slowed him down.
“I’m proud. I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone,” Álvarez said. “I’m not ashamed because I’m looking for challenges that other people didn’t do because they were afraid of losing.”
From there, Álvarez can use the rematch clause in his contract with Bivol or defend their title at 168 pounds.
And there are two major hurdles between Bivol and those battling for the undisputed light-heavyweight title.
Artur Beterbiev, who holds the titles of the World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation, and World Boxing Organization champion Joe Smith Jr. Signed Top Rank. A deal with any of these requires cooperation between the organizers, which only happens very little in this sport. Álvarez, by contrast, has one more match in his short-term contract with DAZN and Matchroom.
Second, an Álvarez rematch will pay him better, especially since he has the only certification he doesn’t have on his way to Bivol’s match on Saturday: a win over the biggest name in boxing.