Undefeated Dmitry Bivol retains his WBA Light Heavyweight title by comfortably out-boxing one-loss Craig Richards to earn a wide unanimous decision
Manchester, UNITED KINGDOM (May 1, 2021) — Undefeated WBA Light Heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol returned to action after 18 months of inactivity. Awaiting him at Manchester’s AO Arena, one-loss Craig Richards – who just won the British Light Heavyweight title after stopping Shakan Pitters back in December.
In addition to defending his title, Bivol’s performance also served the dual purpose of potentially setting up a future fight with one of boxing’s few marquee names in Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Alvarez is busy attempting to fully unify the Super Middleweight division, but Bivol has stated he’s willing to move down seven pounds to face the Pound-for-Pound champion.
In short, Bivol’s outing versus Richards accomplished both objectives. If anything causes Alvarez to change up his undisputed plans, Bivol’s victory could possibly lure the Mexican champion back up to Light Heavyweight to face a defending champion with less critics than Sergey Kovalev. Kovalev, 36 years old at the time, defeated Anthony Yarde on August 24 and faced Alvarez, then 29, on November 2 in 2019.
Bivol (18-0, 11 KOs) had very little difficulty in soundly defeating Richards (16-2, 9 KOs). The 30-year old Russian outclassed Richards over the fight’s 12 rounds, but failed to overly impress many, even with score totals of 118-110, 115-113 and 115-114.
The champion controlled the first half of the fight. He jabbed well, he pressured the challenger, he exited the pocket cleanly after touching Richards and he landed the power shots the entire fight. He just never did anything differently to possibly threaten ending the night versus an opponent with little experience above the domestic level. Despite the one wide card, Richards finished the final third of fight strongly.
Bivol pressed forward from the start of the fight, forcing the taller Richards onto his back foot immediately. Richards threw his jab as the champion came into range, but he rarely added a right hand behind it. The challenger mixed in a left hook to the body late in the round.
The champion’s jab jarred Richards a couple of times early in the second frame. Bivol noticeably picked up the pace. He threw some sweeping left hooks when he could catch up to the challenger. Richards stood in better at the end of the round, still focusing on working primarily with his jab.
Richards landed a downward right hand around the end of the first half of the third round. The action stayed center-ring throughout the round. Richards punched comfortably with Bivol. He also showed some slick defensive moves along the ropes while handling the champion’s flurries.
Bivol landed a pair of body jabs to open the fourth frame. A lot of feinting, from both fighters, ensued over the majority of the round. The champion found it difficult to land cleanly on Richards. Richards continued to wait.
In Rounds 5 and 6 the action remained tight. The champion scored with the better shots, but it was a very measured attack. Richards offered some resistance, fought alert, but never did enough to seize control of the fight. Both fighters took some risks at the end of Round 6, the champion likely got the better of the exchange.
Bivol forced the issue repeatedly in Round 7. He closed the distance late in the round and landed a number of scoring shots. Richards handled the uptick in aggression.
Richards moved forward through most of the eighth round. He paid for it at times, Bivol landed a right hand over his guard. The champion added a strong left jab at the end of the round.
The two fighters stood toe-to-toe, each slowly circling to their left in the center of the ring. Richards varied his jabs with singles and doubles. The champion landed the heavier shots.
In Round 10, with both men operating in the center of the ring, the action resembled the previous round. Richards mixed in a couple of rare body shots. The challenger got in some of his best work in the fight, but Bivol responded in spots to add some mystery to the winner of the stanza.
Richards asserted himself even more in the 11th round. He stood at range and threw a number of meaningful left jab-straight right combinations. Some of the hard rights made it through the champion’s guard. The champion responded, big, in the final moments of the round when landed arguably the best single punch of the round.
Richards didn’t open the final round building on the momentum gained in Rounds 10 and 11. He finished up a pair of three-punch combinations with solid left hooks going into the final minute. The champion appeared to run out of gas in the second half of the round, and he leaned on the challenger to eliminate any big outbursts from Richards. The challenger raised his hands after the final bell. He was likely pleased with finishing the fight, versus a reigning champion, on a higher note in contrast to the first quarter of the bout.
The bout appeared on the undercard of the Matchroom Boxing broadcast topped by Derek Chisora vs. Joseph Parker, and aired live on Sky Sports Box Office in the UK and on DAZN in all markets excluding the UK, Ireland, China, New Zealand and Samoa. The card also featured the undisputed Lightweight championship between undefeated fully unified champion Katie Taylor and Natasha Jonas.
Photos by Mark Robinson/Matchroom Boxing