Saturday night, boxing fans have to choose between Shawn Porter vs. Yordenis Ugas on Fox, and this title fight pitting Dmitry Bivol (15-0; 11 KO) against Joe Smith Jr. (24-2; 20 KO). Bivol vs. Smith is for Bivol’s slice of the WBA Light Heavyweight (175 lbs.) title. The show takes place this Saturday, March 9 and airs live on DAZN with a fight time of 7:00 p.m. ET.
- New Light Heavyweight era - There was a time not long ago that Light Heavyweight was basically just the story of Kovalev and Stevenson. Now, there’s a new group at the top including Gvozdyk, Alvarez and, yes, Dmitry Bivol. He’s ranked #4 in the division, and on a run up the rankings.
- Good opponents - Bivol’s last three are Jean Pascal, Isaac Chilemba, and Sullivan Barrera - a solid list. That Barrera win is particularly impressive, as only two men have defeated him: Bivol and Andre Ward. And only Bivol stopped him.
- Fast track - After a good amateur career, Bivol turned pro in 2014, less than five years ago. He’s been busy, consistently taking 3-4 fights a year, which has brought him to the division’s top 5 quickly.
- Needs the big win - Barrera was a good win. Pascal was a name, but a somewhat faded name. There’s no doubt Bivol’s resume is good. But it’s not yet great. He needs to get in there with someone like Kovalev or Gvozdyk to really make his claim. This fight can provide another solid win - but not a great one.
- -2500 - Wide odds here, with Bivol at -2500, Smith at +1000. That’s quite a spread, but it’s fair.
Joe Smith Jr.
- Fonfara/Hopkins - The clear highlight of Smith’s career so far came in 2016 where he first upset Andrzej Fonfara, then sent the legendary B-Hop into retirement with a KO loss. Those were good, notable wins. But...
- Lost momentum - Smith is just 1-1 since, with a loss to Barrera in July 2017 and a tune-up fight since. He’s still ranked #9 in the division by Ring, but that’s more a sign of the division’s lack of depth, as he’s riding his 2016 accomplishments.
- Conditioning? - If you were to question Smith’s conditioning heading into this one, it certainly would be understandable. He’s never gone past the 10th, and only 3 times has he even gone past the 6th. He also has fought just once since that Barrera fight, and it was a quick KO. Having only 1:45 of ring time in close to two years is not good.
- Power hitter - Of course, the reason Smith hasn’t gone long often is that he ends fights. He has good power and knows how to use it. Not Kovalev power, but good power. He’ll probably try to make this a quick one by overwhelming Bivol.
What else is on the card?
- Maurice Hooker (25-0-3; 17 KO) vs. Mikkel LesPierre (21-0-1; 10 KO) - Title fight here for Hooker’s WBO Super Lightweight title. He’s a top 5 fighter in the division - one of only two in the top 6 not in the WBSS tournament. LesPierre has had some OK wins lately, but shouldn’t be a real threat.
- Callum Johnson (17-1; 12 KO) vs. Seanie Monaghan (29-2; 17 KO) - The expectation is that Johnson wins this, then challenges the Bivol/Smith winner next. Both men come in off losses - to Beterbiev and Barrera respectively.
- Sergey Kuzmin (14-0; 11 KO) vs. Joey Dawejko (19-6-4; 11 KO) - Heavyweights! The undefeated Russian Kuzmin is the favorite at -5000, while Dawejko is on an 0-2 run. Hopefully it’s a fun slobberknocker and not bowling shoe ugly.
I like watching Bivol fight, and I have a soft spot for Smith, but this is not as competitive as Porter vs. Ugas, and if I have to pick (and schedules indicate I likely will), that’s what I will watch. But tune in early here for the Heavyweights at least.
Prediction: Dmitry Bivol, TKO