Dmitry Bivol (13-0, 11 KOs) is still WBA light heavyweight champion after turning back Sullivan Barrera (21-2, 14 KOs) by 12-round knockout on HBO.
Entering the final period, the faces of both men were banged up—Bivol was bleeding from his right eye and a massive hematoma was protruding from his left temple, Barrera could be seen with swelling underneath both of his eyes—but this was no firefight, it was hardly a fight at all as Bivol was in full control.
The defending champion with an outstanding amateur pedigree didn’t lose a single round.
Bivol, 27, took full advantage of a crouching Barrera through the first two periods. The Cuban would dart into the pocket with a jab but remain there, leaning over, where Bivol landed clean two-handed combinations.
Blood was trickling form Bivol’s eye in Round 2. A replay showed the cut was from a clash of heads. Barrera turned away from the action in pain when the fighters’ slammed into each other again in the fourth stanza.
Bivol won every fencing match in the middle rounds, jabbing his challenger’s face with supreme accuracy. The Russian amateur standout, per CompuBox, connected on 24 percent of his total jabs by fight’s end (97 of 400) compared to just three percent for Barrera (10 of 333).
The final 30 seconds of Round 7 saw Bivol add a little more venom to his combos, stuffing violent one-twos into Barrera over and over again.
Barrera, 36, had no answer for that two-fisted attack in the fateful round either.
Bivol stepped on the gas pedal to open the final round, taking charge of the center of the ring and brushing Barrera around with punches.
At 1:41 of the 12th stanza, Bivol tossed out a left jab and sank a right cross into his man’s chin to sit Barrera down. The Cuban was completely flustered and barely made it to his feet before the referee reached a count of 10. The call was completely justifiable as Barrera couldn’t even stand straight or look the referee in the eyes.
The final punch stats revealed Bivol outlanded Barrera in total power punches by a wide margin: 39 percent (146 of 378) to 24 percent (65 of 273).
The knockout was a real statement for Bivol. Barrera was far and away the stiffest competition of his 13-fight professional career, now a two-time title challenger, and the undefeated world champion may not have lost a single minute of the fight.
The matchup was in chief support of Sergey Kovalev’s defense of his WBO light heavyweight strap against Igor Mikhalkin.
Bivol has the talent to feature at the top of the bill and hopefully fight fans can see him there next with both the WBA and WBO belts on the line.
All photos by Ed Mulholland/HBO