By Keith Idec
Dmitry Bivol realizes Joe Smith Jr. can crack.
The rugged Smith sent Andrzej Fonfara to a first-round TKO loss once upon a time in Chicago and knocked Bernard Hopkins onto the floor of The Forum two years ago in Inglewood, California. Russia’s Bivol believes that the difference for him is that he has the chin and the skill set to avoid becoming another Smith victim Saturday night.
That’s when they’ll fight for Bivol’s WBA light heavyweight title in a DAZN main event at Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York. The 28-year-old Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) is consistently listed as a 25-1 favorite against Smith (24-2, 20 KOs), but he understands his challenger is dangerous due to the heavy-handed Smith’s raw power.
“I have watched a few of Joe Smith’s fights,” Bivol said. “I watched the Fonfara fight, the [Sullivan] Barrera fight and the Hopkins fight. I can say that he is a strong fighter, a strong guy and he has a strong right hand and he moves forward. He is a good opponent for me, and I think I can get a lot of experience from fighting him.”
Two fights ago, Cuban contender Sullivan Barrera (22-2, 14 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown, broke Smith’s jaw by landing a right hand in the second round and comfortably won a unanimous decision.
Long Island’s Smith, 29, thought he would get a shot at Bivol’s title November 24 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Negotiations for that fight ceased earlier in the fall, though, once HBO announced late in September that the premium-cable network would no longer broadcast boxing.
Bivol instead soundly defeated former WBC champ Jean Pascal (33-6-1, 20 KOs, 1 NC) in their 12-rounder that night at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. The Kyrgyzstan native feels he’ll handle Smith similarly.
“He tries to be more aggressive,” Bivol said, “and he’ll try to push you and be aggressive, and I will be smarter and out-box him. He uses his strength. I use my intelligence.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.