by Cliff Rold
Dmitry Bivol-Jean Pascal had all the makings of statement fight.
In the end, maybe it was.
If anyone is looking for a singular force to take over the light heavyweight division, we aren’t there yet. Bivol may yet emerge as the man to lead the future, but he has a ways to go. That would have been true no matter how he beat the former light heavyweight champion on Saturday.
It’s not that there was anything wrong with Bivol’s performance. He won just about every round, never abandoned his jab, and wasn’t flustered by Pascal’s late rushes. That sort of maturity and patience will serve him well going forward.
Bivol’s stoppage of Sullivan Barrera raised expectations about what might be possible with this particular talent and that is an error in the observer. He’s still only fifteen fights into his career and for most fighters that is still very much a development period. Bivol, the youngest titlist in his class, is going to be a force for the foreseeable future.
That he didn’t force himself enough to get rid of Pascal speaks to the guts and experience of Pascal and the finishing Bivol may still require before he’s complete. Seeing if he gets to a place where he is the king of the class is part of the fun, just as it will be with fellow titlists Artur Beterbiev and Eleider Alvarez and title challenger Oleksandr Gvozdyk next weekend.
They’re eventually going to have to fight it out. Gvozdyk is up next with a chance to unseat the division’s longest reigning and lineal champion, Adonis Stevenson.
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Bivol: Bivol might not have an immediate path to unification. Alvarez is slated for a rematch with Sergey Kovalev. Bivol’s WBA mandatory situation could be interesting enough. The number one contender is Badou Jack and number two is Marcus Browne. Both are PBC fighters also ranked 1-2 by the WBC. If Stevenson wins next weekend, both those fighters could stay home and wait for their turn to challenge. Jack already gave Stevenson a tussle this year, earning a draw. The IBF titlist Beterbiev doesn’t have anything on his docket yet so if there is a unification fight that could be made, that would be it. Bivol has also said he’d be willing to compete at super middleweight but going down the scale sounds more like promotional rhetoric than something realistic. Gennady Golovkin endeared himself to fans saying he’d work the scale if he had to while building his star; he never actually left the middleweight division. Bivol will find big fights over time but when that might happen in 2019, and against who, is up in the air.
The Future for Pascal: Pascal lasted the route and had a few gutsy moments along the way. He never really threatened Bivol but he didn’t go away either. It will probably be enough to keep him in the ring but his best days are long past and big wins are unlikely to emerge. Everyone ages and Pascal has made the most of his years. In a loss, he was the beginning of a run that probably puts Carl Froch in the Hall of Fame one day; he handed Chad Dawson his first defeat; he was one of the few fighters to drop Bernard Hopkins even if he never defeated him. Those are just pieces of what has been a hell of a career. Saturday, he found a way to stay on his feet all night against one of the rising studs in his class. That’s another piece to be proud of.
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Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]