Given a choice between a money-spinning rematch with Saul “Canelo” Alvarez or the chance at undisputed against fellow light-heavyweight champion Artur Beterbiev, Dmitry Bivol favours history over hard cash.
That, however, does not mean he is looking beyond the similarly undefeated and dangerous Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez in Abu Dhabi next week.
“No, I’m not underestimating him,” Bivol said in the capital on Tuesday, 11 days out from his WBA light-heavyweight title defence at Etihad Arena, as Abu Dhabi welcomes big-time boxing for the first time to the emirate.
“I look only at [Ramirez]. You look like you’re underestimating, because you ask me about the next [fight]. But my schedule until November 5 is that I try to be focused only on November 5.
“It’s hard. Of course, you have dreams, you have plans. But every time I cut everything that comes into my head until after the fight. I just want to leave [it] until that day.”
Unbeaten in all 20 bouts as a professional, Bivol makes the ninth defence of the WBA crown a week on Saturday, one half of the headline bout in the inaugural event of the new "Champion Series" partnership signed between the Department of Culture and Tourism and Matchroom Boxing.
Bivol, who has held his belt for almost five full years, squares off against Ramirez, a former WBO super-middleweight champion from Mexico.
In 2019, the powerful southpaw moved up to 175 lbs and has gone 5-0 since. He comes into Abu Dhabi as the WBA’s No 1 mandatory challenger following an emphatic fourth-round knockout of Dominic Boesel in May.
Like Bivol, Ramirez has never tasted defeat in his pro career - a run that stretches 44 fights. Thus, Bivol is aware of the threat posed.
"Of course, in my training camp I had only southpaw training partners," he said. "Two-and-half months, I sparred only with southpaws who are taller than me, who are faster than Zurdo. It will help me.”
Bivol has been based in the capital for the past month. Zurdo, in contrast, arrived in the UAE only late last week.
“I don’t know what plan for camp he has,” Bivol said. “But mine was just to be here a month before to get used to the weather, don’t cut our preparation.
“I don’t know if it means an advantage. Doesn’t matter for me. I just know my camp was good. One of the best? Maybe. I can tell you only after the fight.”
Get the win on November 5, and the post-fight talk will centre, understandably, on Alvarez or Beterbiev. The former is the undisputed super-middleweight champion and boxing’s lead superstar, whom Bivol defeated by unanimous decision in May in comfortably the most high-profile success of his career.
Beterbiev, meanwhile, resides currently as the unified light-heavyweight champion, in possession of the IBF, WBC and WBO belts.
Recent speculation has suggested Bivol, should he get through Ramirez, would opt next for the unbeaten Canadian-Russian instead of Alvarez.
But he said: “It’s not that I don’t want this rematch, or I want a rematch. It’s not my priority now. I wanted [the first fight with Alvarez], I wanted that people know me, know who I am, know how’s my skills.
“I got what I wanted, to be honest, and I want to move forward for other belts, other opponents, other achievements.”
Still, Alvarez 2 provides a, perhaps, unrivalled payday.
“Of course. I didn’t say I don’t want to fight him for any reason. If it’s good pay, of course I will fight, let’s talk about this. But it’s not my priority, like I said.
“To earn money maybe is good. But if you see the money and the other belts, the other belt is more interesting for me. You can spend the money and everyone forgets about it.
“But belts are history. I would be glad to be the undisputed champion. It’s a great thing."
That said, it is a decision for beyond Abu Dhabi next week.
“I asked my team before: ‘Let’s move for other belts; I want to fight for other belts’,” Bivol said. "But it doesn’t depend only on me, only on my team, only my promoters. It’s many reasons.
“It’s sad. There’s many politics in boxing; it’s not the UFC. And I understand this. But I hope, because people want to see this fight. it will happen.
"But first of all, I have to fight Zurdo. And I hope this fight will push me forward to other belts.”