Boxing is a sport which so often shoots itself in the foot. In recent weeks, headlines have been dominated by failures.
In the first instance, Conor Benn’s failed drug test threw a long shadow. The reaction of his promoters in attempting to bypass the findings, to prevent his fight with Chris Eubank Jr being cancelled, raised damning questions for all concerned. Reputations are in the gutter.
Despite plenty of hype and posturing, the heavyweight division then failed to deliver an exciting unification, or the hoped-for, all-British, Tyson Fury v Anthony Joshua blockbuster. Instead, the public are faced with the unappetising spectacle of WBC champ, Fury facing off against Dereck Chisora, a man he has already beaten twice with ease, and who has lost three of his last four contests. Is this really worth the best part of £30 for Pay-per-View?
In America, on the other hand, fingers are being pointed in both directions, over the collapse in negotiations for a superfight of generational significance. Terence Crawford v Errol Spence Jr would have seen the two best fighters in the welterweight division facing off, in a fascinating throw-down for all the marbles.
It’s the kind of fight that needs to happen for boxing to remain relevant, but which so rarely gets made in the modern era. Promotional disputes, broadcaster clashes and nonsense between the various governing bodies constantly prevent the best from fighting the best. It’s infuriating, and short-sighted.
Amidst all of that, it’s refreshing to find fighters earnestly trying to circumnavigate the circus which surrounds them. WBA light-heavyweight world champion, Dimitry Bivol is one, standout example. The Russian put on another masterclass on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi, to notch his 21st straight victory and dispose of the challenge of Mexican Gilberto Ramirez, who came into the fight with a perfect 44 fight record, having won his last five inside the distance.
A throwback fighter, who works off a high guard and a fast jab, Bivol overcame height and reach disadvantages to control the action from the first round. At times he rocked the challenger but kept his composure and resisted the urge to over-commit.
Always respectful and never one to play the media game, Bivol, who beat superstar Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez last time out, took the microphone after his win.
“I have a goal,” the 31-year-old declared. “To be undisputed champion. But it all doesn’t depend on me. If everything depended on me, that would be my next fight.”
Bivol referred, of course, to his fearsome countryman Artur Beterbiev, who currently holds the IBF, WBC and WBO belts. Big punching Beterbiev looks likely to defend against Londoner, Anthony Yarde in January, but a match-up between the two Russians, if it could be made for the middle of 2023, would provide fans with one, clear light-heavyweight world champion, and an antidote to the sickness of modern boxing.