Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Dmitry Bivol scores first knockout since 2018, sets new date for undisputed title clash with Artur Beterbiev

Unbeaten WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol snapped a nine-fight streak without a knockout on Saturday and was rewarded with the rescheduling of the biggest fight of his professional career. 

It was nearly all one-way traffic as Bivol (23-0, 12 KOs), a massive betting favorite, finished off replacement opponent Malik Zinad (22-1, 16 KOs) via sixth-round TKO inside Kingdom Arena in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The fight, which took place on a unique pay-per-view card pairing opposing members of rival Queensberry Promotions and Matchroom Sport, kept the 33-year-old Bivol busy in the 12th defense of his WBA title after unified 175-pound champion Artur Beterbiev (20-0, 20 KOs) pulled out of their originally scheduled undisputed clash with a knee injury. 

After the fight, Turki Alalshikh, the chairman of the general entertainment authority who oversees Saudi Arabia’s massive financial takeover of boxing, entered the ring to announce that Bivol and Beterbiev will finally square off in the first four-belt unification in light heavyweight history on Oct. 21. The PPV card will serve as an opening ceremony to kick off Riyadh Season, an annual entertainment and sports festival in Saudi Arabia that began in 2019. 

The pair of future Hall-of-Fame champions, both of whom reside within the top 10 of most pound-for-pound lists, have circled each other for years for a fight that promises much in terms of stakes and history but may have never taken place if it wasn’t for Alashikh’s commitment to see the fight happen. 

Beterbiev, 39, first captured a world title in 2017 when he knocked out Enrico Koelling in the final round of their vacant IBF title clash. He added the WBC title in 2019 by finishing unbeaten Oleksandr Gvozdyk in their unification fight before stopping Joe Smith Jr. in 2022 to add the WBO strap. The native of Russia, who fights out of Montreal, has battled injuries in recent years but has kept his professional knockout streak intact. 

Bivol, who was born in Kyrgyzstan, was upgraded from interim to full WBA titleholder in 2017, went on to claim universal fighter of the year honors in 2022 after high-profile wins over Canelo Alvarez and Gilberto “Zurdo” Ramirez. The stoppage of the unheralded Zinad snapped a streak that goes back to Bivol’s last knockout when he finished Sullivan Barrera in the final round of their 2018 bout.

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