Dmitry Bivol says he is not concerned with Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez’s bullish comments ahead of their historic world title clash in Abu Dhabi in November – adding only that he will “do everything” to defeat his rival and keep hold of his belt.
The unbeaten Russian, 31, puts his WBA light-heavyweight crown on the line in the headline bout at Etihad Arena on November 5 in the first "Champions Series" event of the recently signed agreement between the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and renowned promotion Matchroom Boxing. The two entities announced a long-term partnership last week, marking Abu Dhabi’s move into staging major boxing events.
Bivol-Ramirez is a suitably high-profile match-up to launch the collaboration, pitting against one another two unbeaten fighters. Bivol, who makes the ninth defence of the title he claimed almost five years ago, is yet to taste defeat in 20 professional bouts (11 knockouts), while Ramirez has not been beaten in 44 appearances (30 KOs).
Bivol goes into the contest the favourite having in May retained his crown against pound-for-pound No 1 Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, when he triumphed in Las Vegas by unanimous decision.
However, that has not stopped Ramirez from talking up his own chances of an upset, with the Mexican for some time calling out Bivol. A former WBO champion at super-middleweight, Ramirez is 5-0 since moving up to 175lbs, with all five wins coming via knockout. His May victory against Dominic Boesel elevated Ramirez to the WBA's mandatory challenger.
“He talks too much,” Bivol told The National. “It’s not bothering me, but I’m just thinking about why he talks too much? We can just make a fight. It’s not good for people who talk, talk, talk.
“But we’re all different. I try to be focus only on his boxing skills and I try to think only about the fight, and not about him as a person, if he’s a good or bad person. It doesn’t matter. He’s a fighter; he’s my enemy on November 5.”
For many ranked among the top 10 best pound-for-pound men’s boxers in the world, Bivol said he is looking forward to the challenge provided by Ramirez, who is physically much bigger. Ramirez reportedly weighed 204lbs going into his fourth-round knockout win against Boesel.
Belief, though, in the Bivol camp is high, especially following that victory against Canelo Alvarez four months ago.
“Of course, I feel confidence now,” Bivol said. “But I felt confident before. Not too many things change inside me in terms of that. My confidence depends on my trainings, on my coach who tells me if I was good or bad in the sparring sessions - this means much more to me.
“I’m just glad that I have a fight soon after the Canelo fight. And I’m glad that I have a good opponent. He has a lot of experience. He’s not the usual boxer, he’s taller than usual boxer, bigger. He’s southpaw. So it’s an interesting fight for me.
“Every fight is dangerous for me. Because every fighter has some good points. He has too. We’ll see if it will be dangerous or not. We will see how the fight will be. But I think he will move forward and will try to use his size.”
Bivol should expect to enjoy the majority of support at Etihad Arena come fight night given its proximity to his homeland, something he says could either work in his favour or against him.
“It’s a little bit harder for me, more responsibility maybe, but I’ll try to be focused only on the fight,” he said. “I have to use it as an advantage. I have to use everything to be an advantage.
“Even when I fought against Canelo, everybody supported him and I used it as an advantage for me. I try to see everything in my favour, that it helps me.”
Should Bivol emerge victorious against Ramirez, it seems certain a rematch with Alvarez next year - potentially in Abu Dhabi - or an undisputed bout against unified light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, will be next.
Yet Bivol emphasised that he is not looking past his upcoming rival, saying: “Every time I have a fight I’m focused only on that. Of course, I have great plans in my head: I want to be the best fighter in the world, I want to get more belts. But now I have a big fight against a good fighter. I try to be focused only on November 5.”
On topping the bill on such a momentous occasion in the capital, Bivol said: “For sure, I’m happy that I can be the main event of this historic evening. I believe I’m the first fighter who defends his title in Abu Dhabi. It’s great. I’m looking forward to showing my skills in Abu Dhabi, for all the United Arab Emirates.”
As to what fans can expect on November 5, he added: “I don’t know. Only God knows what will happen. But I will try to do all my best to make people glad to see this fight.
“I’ll do everything keep my belt, to beat my opponent, and to make all my fans happy.”