World champion Dmitry Bivol says Abu Dhabi is fast emerging as major boxing destination

The unbeaten Russian light-middleweight is delighted to see the Middle East become a hub for the sport

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Unbeaten Dmitry Bivol is determined to play his part in making boxing a truly global sport, and the Russian world champion is delighted to see the Middle East become a hub for major fights in recent years.

Only last month, Bivol produced a devastating display to overcome Gilberto Ramirez in Abu Dhabi and retain his WBA light-heavyweight title, and earlier this year Saudi Arabia hosted the rematch between Oleksandr Usyk and Anthony Joshua.

Whether it’s Dubai, Saudi Arabia or Abu Dhabi, there is certainly a huge appetite for boxing in the Middle East, and Bivol is delighted to be playing his part in helping the sport to grow.

Speaking at the IBA Global Boxing Forum 2022, which was held in Abu Dhabi, Bivol said: “I really enjoy being in Abu Dhabi, and it was great to fight here. It’s a new area for boxing and I like the fact I was one of the first to fight here for a world title.

“I love my sport, I’m such a fan of boxing and I want the sport to take place all over the world. As much as I can, I will support boxing and introduce the sport to new places. I like to help because boxing made me who I am.

“It’s good that they like boxing in this region and there is the opportunity to make big fights. Joshua versus Usyk is a massive fight in the heavyweight division and the fact it took place in Saudi Arabia was great.

“I hope they will make more fights and I hope that it will help more youngsters in the Middle East to take up boxing. It’s a great sport for physical and mental health and it can help children of all nationalities to fulfil their potential.”

Bivol joined the likes of Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr and Lawrence Okolie in attending the IBA Global Boxing Forum, which included seminars, panel sessions and discussions on a range of subjects, including the development of the sport in the Mena region and how boxing achieved gender equality.

“I’m so glad to be back in Abu Dhabi,” said Bivol. “When the IBA invited me I said I would definitely like to come because I really like the city and the area.

Dmitry Bivol trains for his world title fight against Gilberto Ramirez in Abu Dhabi in November 2022. Antonie Robertson / The National

“Of course, it’s important when you are discussing problems and future plans that the IBA provides an opportunity to make that happen. A lot of people from different countries came here and they have talked about different issues in boxing.”

Having beaten both Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Ramirez, it’s fair to say that Bivol is unlikely to forget 2022 any time soon.

With 2023 just around the corner, what can we expect to see from the Russian?

“I don’t know exactly what fights I will have but it’s my dream to fight for another belt, so I need to be ready when the opportunity comes," he said. "I have to be patient but I need to fight. I hope that will be in April or May.

“I’m happy. I’m still the champion. I had two very good performances and boxing fans said I’m one of the best, or even the best. I’m just doing what I love.”

Updated: December 12, 2022, 4:26 PM