A solid outing it was in his return to the ring, as 🇰🇬🇷🇺Dmitry Bivol (18-0-0, 11KO) put the craft on display, warding off a very solid effort by contender 🇬🇧Craig Richards (16-2-1, 9KO) who looks to have proven himself to be on the world level, to aid his future prospects
going forward. As for Bivol, he secured the 7th defense of his WBA Light-Heavyweight World Title, and will have to figure out what direction he wants to go from this point in his career in terms of potential opponents.
Bivol played the role of the aggressor, to Richards rangier stature, and Richards wanted to establish distance with the jab early. It took a little bit for Bivol to figure out what punch would be the most effective against the style of Richards, but he realized that if he elongated the left hook, he was able to sneak it in there.
Richards put himself in a fit of trouble, overshooting with the right hand, and Bivol made him pay with a hook, cross combination, momentarily stunning the UK fighter. Richards did fight well, proving to be good enough to be in there with the Champion and compete, and Bivol knowing that, stayed at a measured pace.
Richards had his moments in the 3rd round, landing a nice flurry combination, culminated by a strong right hand, and that opened Bivol up, looking to get payback for Craig’s success in the passing moment. Bivol’s jab took centerstage in round 4 (which is his best weapon), and it constantly offset Richards movement midstep, with Bivol timing his every movement.
Being the consummate professional, Bivol continuously gave the challenger different looks, and seldom had any gaps in his workrate. Richards landed a couple of right hands in the 5th round, but Bivol had an answer back for everything Richards was able to do. Round 7 was an entertaining one. Bivol stepped on the gas, putting extra mustard behind his combinations looking to get Richards out of there, and Richards was doing his best to try and catch Dmitry coming in with return fire.
Round 8, a bit of role reversal, as Richards started to push forward on the front foot, with Bivol playing the role as the boxer, and though the dynamics of the fight changed, the results didn’t much. Richards landed his best punch of the fight in the 10th round to note, which was a strong right hand, and knowing he had to make something happen, let his hands go, landing enough to tell the Champion of sorts “I’m still here”.
Round 11, Bivol parked right in front of the challenger, n held his gloves high, elbows in, carefully selecting his shots. Richard did most of the throwing, trying to make something happen. Not much got through, the spirit of the UK fighter was evident, trying to do everything he could to snatch momentum. The final 15 seconds featured blistering action, with Bivol leading the charge in the exchanges.
Richards in the 12th took the initiative, firing away, while Bivol fully transitioned into counterpuncher mode, seeing if he could stop him in his tracks. The fight went the full 12, and it was a quality one. By way of Unanimous Decision (scores 118-110, 115-113, 115-114), Dmitry Bivol secured the 7th defense of his WBO Light-Heavyweight Title.
Sometimes you can win in a losing effort, and Richards certainly raised his stock with a rock solid performance against an elite fighter. Looking at the landscape of the 175 lb. division, it appears that Richards can be a live dog against most that occupy the weight class, and this outing should open him up to more high profile, suitable assignments.
As for Bivol, one wonders what is next in the cards for him. Unified WBC/IBF Titlist 🇷🇺Artur Beterbiev, and WBO Titlist 🇺🇸Joe Smith Jr. appear to be on a collision course, to unify 3 of the 5 title belts in the Light-Heavyweight division, so which direction will Dmitry Bivol look?
Who knows, maybe perhaps someone like former Super-Middleweight Titlist 🇲🇽Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez can come out of the woodworks to challenge the 30 year old Kyrgyzstan/Russian fighter. In the post fight interview, Bivol said his availability is wide open to fight anyone in the Light-Heavyweight division that is deemed top 10, and given how he conducts his business, he isn’t someone that is hard to find when it comes to ambitious opponents looking to try their hand.