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In a massive boxing upset, Dmitry Bivol takes out Canelo Álvarez

Dmitry Bivol, left, throws a left at Canelo Álvarez in the fifth round of their WBA light heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller
Getty Images
Dmitry Bivol, left, throws a left at Canelo Álvarez in the fifth round of their WBA light heavyweight title fight in Las Vegas.

Russian light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol stunned the boxing world Saturday night, winning by a unanimous decision against star Canelo Álvarez – only the second defeat of Álvarez's superlative professional career.

Normally, the undefeated champion – Bivol, who has held the World Boxing Association's light heavyweight title since 2017 – would get top billing, the second boxer to enter the ring, the lead name on the poster.

But Álvarez, one of the sport's biggest draws, was no typical challenger. Before the match, he was ranked as the world's best boxer pound-for-pound by The Ring magazine. Last year, he was named the undisputed world champion at super middleweight.

So it was Álvarez who walked into T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Saturday night as the 5-1 favorite – but it was Bivol who walked out the winner.

Bivol, at 6 feet tall the naturally bigger athlete, spent the early rounds circling away from powerful strikes by the 5-foot-8 Álvarez. But Bivol then used his advantage in both height and reach to turn the tide and take the match by decision.

All three judges scored the fight 115-113 for Bivol, handing Álvarez his first loss since 2013.

"I believed in myself, I believed I could win. I knew he had hard punches and would beat on my body, on my arm, and throw the left hooks," Bivol said in his post-match press conference.

After the fight, Álvarez said he was proud of himself for a tough fight outside his most comfortable weight class.

"I feel like I can come out of this fight with my head held high because I gave the best of me in a different weight class," Álvarez said. "I'm looking for challenges that take me out of my comfort zone."

Álvarez is currently scheduled to return to 168 pounds for a super middleweight match against Gennadiy Golovkin – the highly anticipated trilogy bout between the two boxers – in September.

But Álvarez indicated Saturday that the Golovkin fight could be on hold for an immediate rematch with Bivol. ("Rematch? No problem," Bivol said.)

Álvarez, fresh out of a dominating run at super middleweight, had been seeking to become just the sixth boxer in the sport's modern era to claim a championship in five different weight classes.

Only five boxers have won championships at five or more different weights: Manny Pacquaio, Floyd Mayweather, Oscar De La Hoya, "Sugar" Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.
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