Emering Russian Dmitry Bivol is back on BoxNation this weekend when he defends his WBA World Light-Heavyweight Title against the division’s former lineal Champion, Jean Pascal.
Bivol will be making his third defence in Atlantic City on Saturday night. Many believe his reign will be long and rewarding.
Russia has delivered a catalogue of big name boxers since the fall of the Iron Curtain, but who is the best right now? BoxNation pundit Steve Lillis, gives his top five.
5. SERGEY KOVALEV
Age 35, 32-3-1 (28 KOs)
KO King Kovalev isn’t the frightening wrecking machine he once was, but still a dangerous operator and the man Bivol and Beterbiev would love to have on their records.
After being unbeaten in 31 fights Andre Ward became the first man to beat him taking a win on all three judges’ cards by the narrowest of margins. In the rematch Ward won in eight rounds and then bowed out of boxing.
Kovalev bounced back with a couple of stoppage wins, but when he attempted to retain the WBO Light-Heavyweight Title against Eleider Alvarez he was stopped in round seven after the unbeaten Colombian dropped him three times.
Some may dispute his inclusion, but if he wins his rematch against Alvarez he is back in the big time business, and perhaps a dream Russian super series against Bivol and Beterbiev.
4. ALEXANDER POVETKIN
Age 39, 34-2 (24 KOs)
Povetkin might be considered a controversial choice given his chequered PED past, but he is still considered one of his nation’s top dogs. He is expected to have a couple of fights next year and call it quits following his brave defeat against Anthony Joshua in September.
There is perhaps still time to squeeze in a big fight before calling time on a career that brought him a WBA World Heavyweight Title and Olympic and World Championship amateur gold.
He had been on an eight-fight winning streak prior to the Joshua loss and the only other person to defeat him professionally was Wladimir Klitschko.
3. ARTUR BETERBIEV
Age 33, 13-0 (13 KOs)
Montreal-based Beterbiev is the second current Russian World Champion at Light-Heavyweight and jostling with Bivol and Kovalev to prove he’s the best.
He had some promotional issues and Beterbiev should have been more active, boxing just once in 2017 and once so far this year. But the powerhouse proved himself in those fights, picking up the IBF crown.
He had a tougher than expected time winning the title last November, knocking out German rival Enrico Koelling in the 12th round. Just last month he was involved in a thriller, surviving an early knockdown before knocking out Callum Johnson in round four. He gives the impression of being a fighter who will always find a way to win.
2. MURAT GASSIEV
Age 25, 26-1 (19 KOs)
[Image credit: Ring Magazine]
The former IBF and WBA Cruiserweight Champion is coming off his first professional loss after he was outpointed Oleksandr Usyk, but still deserves his place among Russian boxing royalty.
Some would still make a case for him being the 200lb division’s second best behind the brilliant Ukrainian.
He is aggressive and loves nothing more than non-stop action fights. His final round stoppage of Yunier Dorticos in the World Boxing Super Series semi-final proves that.
Gassiev is smart around the ring and can seriously dig, especially to the body.
1. DMITRY BIVOL
Age 27, 14-0 (11 KOs)
Bivol has gained the sort of reputation Sergey Kovalev built when he looked invincible and wreaked havoc. They could be future opponents, and Kovalev is the catalyst for Bivol’s success.
Bivol revealed: “When I was young, very young, I went to Prague, and I watched Sergey Kovalev fight as an amateur. I looked at him and I watched him fight, and I said over and over to myself, ‘I can be just like him. I can be a Champion.’”
He won his World Title in November 2017, annihilating Trent Broadhurst inside a round. His first defence was a career best win stopping Sullivan Barrera in the 12th round.
In August he went the 12 round championship distance for the first time, comfortably outpointing Issac Chilemba.
Buy BoxNation to watch Dmitry Bivol v Jean Pascal on November 24th.