2022 was a banner year for WBA light heavyweight champion, Dmitry Bivol. After victories against Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, and then Gilberto 'Zurdo' Ramirez, he was the consensus choice for 'fighter of the year'.
Ring Magazine was the latest to give him that designation last week.
A t this time last year, Dmitry Bivol faced an uncertain future. While undoubtedly a respected world titleholder, he was a relative unknown to the general public. After engaging in a string of title defenses for his WBA light heavyweight belt, you got the sense that the 31-year-old from Kyrgyzstan still hadn’t had that signature victory.
But now we are into 2023. So what's next?
Vadim Kornilov, who manages Bivol told SNAC.com, "There's been some conversations starting on the 'Canelo' rematch. I'm waiting to see how serious it is because to me, it looks like 'Canelo' really doesn't want the rematch. So we're trying to plan for other things.
"But if he does, Dmitry is interested. The fight motivates him at 168 because of the belts, and it makes it a new fight."
Back when they met in May, Alvarez was rendered ineffective by the naturally bigger Bivol over 12 rather one-sided rounds. But despite the loss, the Mexican superstar is still the undisputed champion at super middleweight.
Would the rematch take place at 168?
"In my opinion, yes," answered Kornilov. "But at the same time Dmitry needs to see how he can make that weight. I want to see how that is figured out. There's been some thoughts going around that he does try and do a fight at 168, but I just don't know if there's any options."
The match-up that most hardcore fans want is a showdown with Artur Beterbiev, who holds the rest of the light heavyweight straps. Beterbiev is scheduled to face one of his mandatory challengers, Anthony Yarde, in January 28.
Kornilov stated, "We'll go after Beterbiev, that's the goal. I've heard him say that he's interested in the fight. I heard his promotional team saying that they're really not into that fight, yet. But at the end of the day, that would probably be the fight."
There is banter that Alvarez will face John Ryder in May, and Beterbiev will be observing Ramadan in the spring. And with that, Bivol and his team have to make plans that may not revolve around either guy. The plan is for him to return in April or May.
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"We're looking to see if he can just find an option to have a fight, whether it's (Jaime) Munguia, he mentioned that he wants a fight, or whoever it is, maybe Joshua Bautsi," said Kornilov.
Munguia seems unlikely given that his team isn't even interested in facing the elite middleweights, much less a light heavyweight. Bautsi (rated sixth by Ring Magazine in the division) would be a solid stay-busy bout given that he's the top rated light heavyweight in the WBA, and both box under the Matchroom Sports banner.
Despite the year that Bivol just had, he's still not a fighter that can leverage big fights through their own star power. It's still a difficult process to entice other marquee names to get into the ring with him.
"I think it's always been difficult," stated Kornilov, ''and I don't think it's really changed. Boxers themselves and their teams, they understand that Bivol is a fought fight -- even before Canelo. The bigger problem now is limited options at 175."
The dream scenario would be for Bivol to face Canelo at super middleweight, and then Beterbiev at light heavyweights. Two fights, with all the belts on the line. The reality is he might get one.
"I don't know if both can happen, but there's no doubt one of them will," said Kornilov.
So what's the status of junior middleweight contender, Irail Madrimov? Will he face Michel Soro, in what is becoming the modern day version of Terry Norris-Luis Santana?
Well, not so fast.
"We're not focused on Michel Soro because I don't think it's what Soro wants, that's not what we want, fighting that fight over and over," said Kornilov. "Most likely Madrimov will come back in March or April. I'm talking to Eddie (Hearn) about bringing Madrimov back, finding an opponent and keeping him busy."
With the injury to undisputed champion, Jermell Charlo, there is now a logjam with all the contenders at 154.
As for unified 122-pound champion 'MJ' Akhmadaliev and his IBF mandatory defense against, Marlon Tapales, Kornilov believes that bout will take place in late March, or early April. With Naoya Inoue dropping all his titles and bantamweight and moving up to junior featherweight, a bout with him would certainly interest them.
"We're interested," affirmed Kornilov, "that's a huge fight."
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