Dmitry Bivol is Looking for Huge Fights After Upcoming Title Defense

Undefeated WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol will defend the title against Joe Smith Jr. this weekend in New York.

Updated: March 7, 2019 • 9:55 AM ET


Verona, N.Y. will host two title fights this weekend.

Verona, N.Y. will host a WBA light heavyweight title fight this Saturday, as Dmitry Bivol will defend his belt for fifth time against hard-hitting challenger Joe Smith Jr. In the co-main event, the WBO super lightweight title will be on the line, as Maurice Hooker will defend the title against Mikkel LesPierre.

Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) has successfully defended the title four times since winning the belt with a first-round knockout of Trent Broadhurst in 2017. The 28-year-old then defeated Sullivan Barrera by 12th-round TKO and Isaac Chilemba by unanimous decision. He most recently defeated Jean Pascal by a convincing unanimous decision in November, while being a light heavyweight titleholder that challengers seems to be avoiding.

Moving forward, Bivol just wants to continue to fight in high profile title fights.

“I would like to fight against everyone who has a belt in light heavyweight division and super middleweight,” Bivol recently told Kristal Hart. “It doesn’t matter for me. I’m 28 years old, and I think it’s a good age to make big step to big fights. Why not? If not now, then when?”

Bivol has even talked about moving down in weight for a title shot.

"I can do it, yes," Bivol recently said via ESPN. "I said it, and I can make 168. If one of the champions wants to fight with me, I'm ready."

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Bivol’s manager, Vadim Kornilov, thinks moving down in weight is a good move for multiple reasons.

"It might be tougher (to make the unification bouts), but at the same time there's other opportunities that can open up at 168 that might be even more lucrative than the 175 opportunities," Kornilov said. "The 175-pound division, right now, is mostly Soviet fighters and it's kind of hard to market those unifications.”

Smith Jr. emerged into the spotlight after defeating Andrzej Fonfara by first-round TKO in 2016 and followed that with a vicious knockout of Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins. He followed the Hopkins win with a unanimous decision loss to Sullivan Barrera, during which he broke his jaw. Nevertheless, he rebounded against Melvin Russell in June, winning by knockout. He’ll fight for his first major title this weekend and will have to find a way to neutralize Bivol’s speed and power.

“Winning a world title would mean everything to me,” Smith Jr. said via Boxing Scene. “It’s everything I have worked towards my whole life. I cannot even express how I will feel when I win this title.

“Training camp has been great. We’ve worked on a lot of new things and I’ve pushed myself to the limit every day. Also, I had some great sparring partners to help me prepare for this fight. Dmitry is a great fighter, very busy and active. My plan is to stay just as active and be busier than him, to outwork him. I plan to punch when he punches and make it a great fight. The fans are in for a great show on Saturday. They will see a new and improved Joe Smith Jr., the new Light-Heavyweight champion of the world.”

Co-main event

In Saturday’s co-main event, WBO super lightweight champion Maurice Hooker will defend his belt against Mikkel LesPierre.

Hooker looked fantastic with a stunning comeback in his first title defense in November, when he defeated Alex Saucedo by seventh-round TKO. Saucedo dropped Hooker in the second round, but Hooker weathered the storm and began to outwork the tired challenger when he returned to his feet and eventually stopped him. The victory proved that Hooker has the heart to match his skills, and the 29-year-old is a serious threat to anyone in the weight class.

He’s also looking for a dramatic finish on Saturday.

“He’s going down on March 9, that’s all I know,” Hooker said via Bad Left Hook. “He doesn’t have power but I still have to be wary as he could close his eyes and swing, hit me with the backhand — it’s boxing. But if I see a weakness in him, I’m not going to hesitate — I want to KO him hard and fast, I don’t get paid overtime.

“I will show real power in both hands, and show I can put any southpaw in the world to sleep...Fighters say they don’t look for the KO — I am looking for a big KO on March 9, I want it bad and I will KO him.”

The 34-year-old LesPierre (21-0-1, 10 KOs) will challenge for his first major title and take a major step up in competition to do so. The undefeated Trinidadian fighter last defeated Wilton Montero by TKO in November, and this will be the first 12-round fight he’ll enter as a significant underdog.

A win over Hooker would likely be one of the biggest upsets of 2019.

• The main card can be seen this Saturday on DAZN at 9 p.m.