‘Of course, I would like to box Andre Ward’ - Russian boxing champion Dmitry Bivol (VIDEO)
Following a standout amateur career for his national team, Bivol turned professional in 2014, singing a managerial contract with Andrey Ryabinsky’s “Mir Boksa” stable of fighters, as well as a promotional contract with US-based promoter Vadim Kornilov as “one of the top prospects in Russia right now.”
The 26-year-old Kyrgyz-born fighter captured the interim WBA light heavyweight title in just his seventh professional bout and regularly trains in the United States with renowned trainer Freddie Roach at his legendary Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.
RT Sport caught up with Bivol in St. Petersburg ahead of his title defense against New Zealand's Robert Berridge in Nizhny Tagil, Russia on February 23.
RT: What are your thoughts on your upcoming fight with Berridge?
Dmitry Bivol: If I’m honest, my opponent is more well-known to me than my previous opponents because he fought a Russian boxer – [Vasily] Lepikhin – which was shown on television. He also had a bout in Canada with [Colombian-Canadian] Eleider Alvarez. What can I say about him? He’s a durable opponent, he has a good chin, he has a good hard punch. He has a great knockout ratio. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t just go to give up. As I understand he’s coming here for my belt and I don’t intend to just give it up.
RT: You have boxed twice in the United States, do you plan to stay in Russia or continue your career in the States?
DB: I don’t intend to go to the States just to box on average boxing shows. If I go, I want to box on at least well-known television channels. There are talks currently taking place for that, my manager Vadim Kornilov is currently negotiating with a range of opponents who I could face if the fight was to be shown on television. Essentially, our goal is to get onto American television channels but at the moment we are gathering experience, and getting some fights under my belt to try and get my name out there.
RT: There are a lot of Russian boxers living and training in America, do you think the level of boxers over there is better than what there is in Russia?
DB: Well, of course the best boxers try to move to America. It works out well to gather experience, especially if you live and train there, because many boxers from all different backgrounds go to America, train and spar with each other and then fight there. But I wouldn’t say that the best boxers are there, of course, because we have such champions as Denis Lebedev and other decent boxers here in Russia.
RT: Nathan Cleverly currently holds the regular WBA light heavyweight title, is that a fight you’re looking towards?
DB: Of course, it’s our next aim. Because as far as I know, the WBA will force the interim and the regular champion to unify the titles. When that time comes to unify the titles, of course I will want that fight.
RT:Andre Ward, one of the biggest stars in America, currently holds the WBA ‘Super’ world title, are you looking to fight him?
DB: My goal is to fight the best in my division. That’s what I train for. I want to fight the best. If you fight the best, you will become the best if you win. We are working towards exactly that. You can’t be a boxer and not want to reach the top. You need to be motivated for that.
Of course, I would like to box Andre Ward. I want to fight the very best. But I need a little more time, I have only had a few fights, Andre Ward is a very seasoned fighter who has a lot of fights, but it is my goal, which I aspire toward and this is something I want to achieve eventually.
RT: He won that title against Sergey Kovalev, what did you make of that fight?
DB: I wouldn’t say Sergey displayed everything he was capable of in that fight, it was probably one of Sergey’s worst fights. Nevertheless, I believe that the titles should have probably stayed with Sergey. I don’t think the challenger should have been given all three belts after a fight like that.
In all, I think Sergey actually managed to defend his belts, but the judges scored it otherwise and they instead went to Ward.
RT: Do you think Ward deserved to win that fight?
DB: I wouldn’t say that he 'stole' the belts from him or anything like that. But in my honest opinion Sergey Kovalev should have won that fight. I think Ward should have proved himself to be a hundred times better than the champion. Especially as Kovalev knocked him down in the first half of the fight. Okay, Ward fought his fight in the second half of the fight, but it wasn't a fight where they could give all three belts to the challenger.
RT: Gassiev-Lebedev, what do you think? Did Gassiev deserve to take the belt?
DB: Yes, after all Gassiev was more active, he came forward, he threw more punches. Honestly, I was rooting for Denis, because I know him personally. I don’t know Gassiev that well. But fate turned out that it wasn’t Denis’s day, although I thought he would win given his experience and his technique, but the belt went to Gassiev.
RT: What are we going to see from you in 2017?
DB: I don’t like to get ahead of myself but I hope I won’t be waiting three or four months, I hope just a couple of months to get back in the ring but we still don’t know when, where or with whom exactly. Currently I’m focused on one goal in Nizhny Tagil on February 23. I have an opponent and I am primed and ready for him. It will all become clear later on, but now I need to box on the 23rd.