Fresh from his dominant title defence in Abu Dhabi on Saturday night, Dmitry Bivol has set sights on becoming undisputed champion.
The undefeated Russian, 31, outclassed Gilberto "Zurdo" Ramirez at Etihad Arena, headlining the inaugural “Champion Series” event in the capital by retaining his WBA light-heavyweight crown by unanimous decision.
Bivol, whose slick footwork and expert counterpunching rendered redundant the previously unbeaten Ramirez, took the contest 118-110, 117-111, 117-111. The win, the 10th defence of the WBA title, lifted Bivol’s professional record to 21-0, while Ramirez now sits at 44-1.
With Ramirez dispatched emphatically, Bivol is expected to next either rematch Saul “Canelo” Alvarez – he defeated the Mexican superstar in May – or face WBC, WBO and IBF champion Artur Beterbiev for a shot at becoming the unrivalled lead boxer at 175 lbs.
"I proved myself, I can be the best guy in the world," Bivol said afterwards. “I have a goal; I want to be undisputed champion. But it doesn't all depend on me. If it all depends on me, I fight for all four belts.
“I hope they are listening to me, to what I want. I'm like a kid who has a dream; I want to go with this dream."
Asked if he was concerned about facing Beterbiev, since the Russia has knocked out all 18 opponents and thus has an aura, as the reporter put it, of a “monster”, Bivol responded: “You remember what people said about Canelo? We are all people, not monsters. Someone can be stronger, someone can be faster, but we’re all people.”
On why he was confident he could become the first to take down Beterbiev, the WBA champion said: “Because I believe in my skills. I could beat him, why not? And I could lose, why not?
“It depends on my preparation, depends on my mentality. I could lose to Ramirez, too, but I try to do everything right in my camp and try to believe in myself and try to be focused on the fight.
“I have good defence, good combinations, good boxing skills. Why couldn’t I beat him. Of course I could.”
In May, Bivol defeated Alvarez by unanimous decision to keep hold of the WBA belt that has been in his possession since November 2017. It represented the second loss in the 62-fight pro career of Alvarez, the undisputed super-middleweight champion, who was back then considered the sport’s pound-for-pound No 1.
Alvarez, currently recovering from hand surgery following September's victory against Gennady Golovkin - his anticipated to return to action is next May - is understood to want the rematch, but at 168 lbs instead.
Promoter Eddie Hearn, sitting alongside Bivol at the post-fight press conference, suggested first the fight taking place at super-middleweight and then an encounter for undisputed against Beterbiev afterwards, to which Bivol replied jokingly: “Wow, wow. Sounds good.”
He added: “When I was amateur, I was fighting first of all against my weight, 75 kilos [165 lbs], and second against my opponent. And I decided I didn’t want to make weight, but in the pros I work with some nutritionists and I learned how to make weight easily.
“Before this weigh-on [on Friday] I had dinner, I had a small breakfast, and then I came to the scales and showed my weight. We could talk about [Canelo at 168lbs], of course, I told [Hearn] before. It’s not my preference, but we could.”
Hearn said: “It’s pretty obvious: Dmitry Bivol’s about legacy, about belts. And he wants to become undisputed. That is his absolute main focus. Obviously from my side, we want to make the biggest fights possible. And the Canelo Alvarez rematch is a very big fight. But the priority for Dmitry is to be undisputed.
“However, if Beterbiev fights [No 1-ranked WBO light-heavyweight contender Anthony] Yarde in January-February and then goes into Ramadan, then he probably wouldn’t be ready to fight Dmitry until June-July, or whatever. So we have to look as a team.”
Meanwhile, Saturday’s event marked the first in the recently announced, multi-year agreement between the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.
Bivol, competing for the first time in the capital, had been based in the emirate for five-and-a-half weeks in the lead-up to Ramirez.
“I am so, so happy that I made a fight in Abu Dhabi and the first big fight here,” he said. “I love boxing and I hope that the main sport in Abu Dhabi can be boxing.
“I showed my skills tonight and I’m hoping they will make more boxing events here with Eddie, who I feel is the best boxing promoter in the world.”