Bivol 'extremely excited' to fight at Etihad Arena after getting a taste of NBA games

Russian WBA light-heavyweight faces fellow undefeated pro Gilberto 'Zurdo' Ramirez in Abu Dhabi next month

WBA light-heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol, centre, attends the 2022 NBA Abu Dhabi Games at Etihad Arena on October 8, 2022 in Abu Dhabi. Getty Images
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Dmitry Bivol said experiencing a sold-out Etihad Arena first hand has only added to his excitement ahead of his historic bout against Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez in Abu Dhabi next month.

Bivol, 31, puts his WBA light-heavyweight championship on the line against the Mexican challenger on November 5 in the UAE capital's first-ever elite title boxing match.

Bivol has been in training camp in the UAE for the past couple of weeks but took some time out to experience the atmosphere at a sold-out Etihad Arena during the recent 2022 NBA Abu Dhabi Games between the Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks last week.

“It was very exciting for me,” said Bivol, who also met NBA legend and NBA Abu Dhabi Games ambassador Shaquille O’Neal earlier. “I haven’t been to too many basketball games before and watching an NBA game with some of the sport’s biggest stars present was a very interesting experience.

"The Etihad Arena is very nice. It was my first time visiting the venue where our fight will take place on November 5. It's always helpful to get a feel of the arena before the fight. It was very well conditioned inside and I'm looking forward to it.”

Etihad Arena’s transformation from basketball court to fight venue is already underway as the Yas Island venue prepares to host a bout between two unbeaten fighters at the peak of their powers.

The fight night marks the first "Champions Series" event of the recently signed agreement between the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and Matchroom Boxing.

Unbeaten in all 44 professional fights, Ramirez represents the WBA mandatory challenger at light heavyweight after winning all five of his bouts since jumping up to 175lbs in 2019. All five victories have come by knockout.

2022 NBA Abu Dhabi Games - in pictures

The Mexican, 31, defeated Dominic Boesel last time out in May, and now puts on the line his unbeaten record against fellow undefeated pro Bivol. Russia's Bivol sits at 20-0, with May’s dominant points victory against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez the eighth successful defence of his WBA crown.

“This is a historic fight, and the winner will probably go on to fight for the undisputed light-heavyweight Championship afterwards,” Bivol said.

“I believe this fight puts Abu Dhabi in the boxing history books and hopefully it will be the beginning of a new player in the boxing world.

"Abu Dhabi can become host to many other historic fights to come. I am extremely excited. It will be a great event.”

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Updated: October 18, 2022, 6:52 AM