Dmitry Bivol produced a punch perfect display to cause a massive upset and claim a unanimous points victory over Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
Bivol, the WBA light heavyweight champion, was awarded the decision after earning a 115-113 points win on all three judges scorecards to improve his professional record to 20-0 with 11 knockouts.
It was only the second defeat of Canelo's remarkable career and first since a majority decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr back in 2013. Between then and now, the Mexican had won 16 of 17 fights - a draw with Gennady Golovkin the only blemish - and unified the super middleweight division.
He had fought at light heavyweight before, stopping Sergey Kovalev in the 11th round to win the WBO 175-pound title in November 2019.
But the step up to face Bivol proved a step too far on the night for Canelo, who struggled to break down the guard of the Russian champion and was visibly fatigued by the end of the bout.
"He hurt my arm," Bivol said, displaying a bruised upper arm that absorbed a string of punches. "I felt his power, you can see on my arm. He beat my arm up, but not my head."
While Alvarez struggled to find a way to trouble Bivol, the Russian found plenty of success throughout the bout at T-Mobile Arena, using his size and reach advantage to consistently land his shots.
"I prove myself today, I'm the best (in the division)," Bivol said. "I'm the best in my division and I keep this belt. He's a great champion, I respect him and all his team. If you don't believe in yourself what do you do? You achieve nothing. I believe and my team believed in me."
It was a massive disappointment for the pro-Alvarez crowd,, who were pulling for a Mexican victory on the Cinco de Mayo holiday weekend.
Bivol said the crowd's partisan cheers whenever Alvarez seemed to be gaining ground gave him "more energy."
“Doesn’t matter which one, first or second, doesn’t matter to me — I just wanted this fight,” Bivol said of the ring entrance. “Doesn’t matter which sound he has, which sound I have, how he went in. And when he was going to the ring, and I heard the crowd, I really enjoyed how the crowd was yelling.”
Alvarez landed a big uppercut to Bivol's chin to end the fourth round, but his aggressive start to the fifth yielded little as Bivol turned the tables with a big flurry in the middle of the round and closed with a punishing left hand.
Bivol fought a disciplined fight, keying a steady attack with a piston-like jab that opened the door for powerful combinations.
Alvarez was put on the defensive, and the naturally lighter fighter couldn't find a way to respond. By the seventh round his face was bruised, his feet looked slow and as the fight wore on his punches lacked their usual power.
When a weary Alvarez ducked his head under Bivol's arm in the 11th round, the Russian leaned over and let himself be lifted off the ground.
Alvarez tried to pour it on in the 12th, but his combinations made little impression on the remorseless Bivol.
"He's a very good fighter," Alvarez said. "He comes in, goes out. He managed his distance really well. That's boxing. He's a great champion. I lost. He won."
Although he had no complaint with the decision, Alvarez said he wanted a rematch.
"Of course, I want the rematch," Alvarez said. "This doesn't end here."
Bivol said he was happy to face Alvarez again, stating: "Rematch? No problem. Let's talk about that. I want respect as the champion."
The shock loss shouldn't impact Alvarez's plans for a trilogy bout with Gennady Golovkin, with the long-time rivals expected to meet at middleweight or super-middleweight, although the fight could be pushed back from its planned September date if a rematch with Bivol is arranged.