- Dmitry Bivol is set to take on the fight of his life Saturday against Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas.
- But some, like Wladimir Klitschko, do not think the fight should go ahead because Bivol is Russian.
- Insider asked Bivol about calls to ban Russian athletes in response to the country’s Ukraine invasion.
LAS VEGAS – Russian boxer Dmitry Bivol responded to Vladimir Klitschko‘s call to banish him from Saturday’s blockbuster boxing match against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez during a media roundtable Insider attended Wednesday.
Vladimir is rarely seen far from his brother Vitali’s side who, as Kyiv mayor, is one of the most significant people in Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself from the ongoing Russian invasion.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 and, in the months since, more than 12 million people have been displaced as multiple cities in that country have been shelled. More than 3,000 civilians have been killed there, according to the UN.
During the early stage of the war, numerous sporting bodies and organizations around the world slapped bans on Russian athletes.
FIFA and UEFA suspended Russian soccer clubs and national teams from their competitions “in full solidarity with all the people affected in Ukraine.” Other sports, including tennis, swimmingand F1 have taken similar steps.
Speaking in March, Wladimir said there should be a worldwide boycott of Russian athletes in sports.
When asked by BBC 5 Live Radio whether that extended to boxers like Bivol, he said: “Every sanction, and it’s nothing against the personalities or athletes, it’s about the politics of Russia.
“Every Russian representative, in this case, needs to be sanctioned because this way we show to Russia that the world is against his senseless war and there is no good in this war.”
Insider and other reporters broached the subject with Bivol.
“First of all, I want to say that we all have to be proud where we are from,” he said. “Doesn’t matter – from Kyrgyzstan, from Moldova, from Africa, from England, or everywhere. We have to be proud where we are from.”
He said he understands why he is not permitted to carry his national flag into the T-Mobile Arena this weekend, or sing the Russian national anthem.
“No problem, I’m a sportsman,” he said. “I’m focused only fight. I have a fight.”
Regarding the bans other Russian athletes have faced as a result of the country’s war involvement in Ukraine, Bivol said: “You know I do not know about politics.”
He later added that he is a sportsman and should not be asked about things like politics or COVID.
“The most important [thing is] that people want to see this fight. Boxing fans, they just want to see boxing match. They want to see one of the best light heavyweight against the pound for pound king. “
Insider said to Bivol that Klitschko, one notable boxing fan, does not want to see the match. “He’s political,” Bivol clapped back.
His manager Vadim Kornilov interjected: “He does not have to watch. Hopefully he will not watch.”
War, though, does make Bivol “sad,” he said when pushed for comment on the devastation Russia’s actions in Ukraine have had on the country’s people, its buildings, and its culture.
“When I heard about war, somewhere in Vietnam or in the second war, or in Iraq… it sad for me, of course, we have people, we have to make a better world.
“Of course, it’s sad,” he finished.
Bivol dreamed of making it the top of boxing when he first joined the sport as a kid
Insider and other reporters spoke to Bivol for half an hour inside a luxury ballroom at the MGM Grand.
Through the weeks, months, and years building up to bouts like this, much becomes known about the star of the show – Canelo.
Alvarez loves to play golf, take vacations in Mexico, and boat trips where he dances like he’s got very few cares in this world.
What he does care about is his family – his people. He cares about fighting, too.
Though Alvarez is far away from reaching the level of celebrity that combat sports have seen with previous box office sensations like Conor McGregor, Manny Pacquiao, and Floyd Mayweather, his fame is growing.
Canelo’s English is improving rapidly – he can now crack jokes in his second language.
Bivol, by contrast, is a more unemotional if not stoic figure. Not as much is known about him as it is about Alvarez.
He does not possess the name value that Alvarez enjoys, and while Canelo invites his young daughter onto the stage with him during media events, Bivol is lonely in comparison. Based in California for this training camp, Bivol’s family remains in St. Louis. Petersburg. He sees them maybe 70% of the year, he told us. He has not seen them since early March.
When he’s taking breaks from training, he walks on the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica. He eats quesadillas, drinks cola, and visits art museums.
But though he’s a contrast to Canelo, the one thing they share has been a dream to ascend boxing’s highest peaks.
“When I came to pro boxing, I had a dream. And I said to my team, ‘I want to be one of the best, I want to have four belts.’
“This is my goal,” he told us. “I’m walking to my goal, I hope I will defend my title, and we’ll go again to my goal.”
Bivol will make one huge step in walking to that goal should he beat Canelo on DAZN pay-per-view Saturday. The first fight begins at 1.45 pm PT (4.45 pm ET.)