Canelo eyes Bivol title as Russian test awaits Mexican great in Vegas
Dmitry Bivol accepts he may not win any popularity contests in Las Vegas on Saturday night, but the Russian believes he can triumph in the ring against Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez.
The WBA light heavyweight belt will be on the line at the T-Mobile Arena when the fighters, both 31, go head to head in Sin City.
Mexican superstar Canelo (57-1-2) can expect strong support, while Bivol may find it in short supply.
This is a fight that some feel should not be happening, with Wladimir Klitschko having told the BBC in March that Bivol should be "forbidden from fighting in America", due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Klitschko's brother, Vitali, is mayor of Kyiv.
The WBC, IBF and IBO have said they will not sanction fights that feature boxers from Russia or Belarus, but the WBA is not taking the same stance.
Even without that factor hanging over the fight, Bivol would reasonably expect Canelo to have comfortably the greater support this weekend, given his status as a regular Vegas venue filler.
Bivol (19-0) is a 31-year-old who aligns himself just as closely to Kyrgyzstan as he does to Russia, and he is the belt holder.
While Canelo is dominant at super middleweight, stepping up from the 168lbs division to 175lbs brings with it its own challenges. He is targeting undisputed champion status in the division.
Canelo told Stats Perform: "I feel good, I feel great. Like always, I trained 100 per cent. I'm ready for Saturday.
"I feel I am at my best in 168lbs. But I'm always around 180lbs in my normal life. So I feel good. It's a challenge for me, but in this period I would love to be undisputed in 175lbs too."
Bivol will be taking on a fighter widely regarded as the pound-for-pound number one, so to beat Canelo would be the ultimate scalp.
"I don't think about whether I will be the best or something else, I just have to beat him," Bivol told Stats Perform. "I just believe in my skills, and we will see what will happens after, and then we will think about who's the best."
Should he prevail, Bivol will give greater thought about where that puts him in boxing's current pantheon.
"Of course it means I can be the best and I've realised my potential," he said. "That's what it means. We will be glad, but I don't think about the result now. I'm only thinking about the fight and not the result."
Canelo is expected to tackle Gennady Golovkin later in the year, completing a trilogy.
His status is such that Bivol is admiring of the Mexican, albeit determined to send him to the canvas.
"He's the most popular of my opponents, I can 100 per cent say, this is one of the most known opponents," Bivol said.
BIvol is braced for the rare experience of not being a fight favourite on Saturday night, and said: "It's motivated me, and it's a new challenge for me."