Russian boxer reacts to Klitschko calls to ban him from title fight

Dmitry Bivol says it’s ‘sad’ that Wladimir Klitschko believes he should be banned from boxing

Undefeated world champion boxer Dmitry Bivol has hit out at former heavyweight king Wladimir Klitschko for suggesting that Russian boxers should be prohibited from competing in the wake of the military campaign in Ukraine.

Bivol is set to defend his WBA (Super) light-heavyweight title against pound-for-pound great Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on Saturday night in Las Vegas, in what will be the sternest test (and biggest payday) of the 31-year-old’s career to date.

But if Ukrainian icon Klitschko had his way, Russian boxing would be subject to similar sanctions which have been levied on the country’s footballers and some other sports.

[Bivol should] absolutely not [be facing Canelo],” Klitschko said in an interview with the BBC back in March. 

Every sanction, and it’s nothing against the personality 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 this senseless war and that there’s no good in this war.

Klitschko, along with his brother (and fellow heavyweight champion Vitali, who is the mayor of Kiev) have both taken up arms against Russia during the conflict, as had world heavyweight champion Oleksandr Usyk, three-weight champion Vasyl Lomachenko, and unbeaten Bellator MMA welterweight champion Yaroslav Amosov. 

The Kyrgyz-born Bivol has said the situation in Ukraine “is really sad” – but nonetheless, said in retaliation to Klitschko’s comments that sport and politics should be kept apart.

All his career I support him, I liked how he was fighting and of course I was glad when he won,” he told IFL TV.

He is [a] sportsman, he should know sports and politics is different. He was [an] athlete. Now he is politician. It is sad that wants to shake it up and mix sport and politics.”

Despite this, the WBA – whose title belt Bivol currently holds – have suspended Russian fighters from their rankings and have moved to ban fighters such as Bivol displaying the Russian flag or playing the national anthem at officially sanctioned bouts.

Bivol, as well as other boxers from Russia and Belarus, are currently banned from fighting in the United Kingdom. 

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Ukrainian boxing star Oleksandr Usyk. © Julian Finney / Getty Images
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But with the fight now certain to go ahead on Saturday, Bivol faces a tough proposition in cracking the Canelo code.

The outstanding Mexican fighter, considered by many to be among the finest boxers of all time, is chasing what would be his 58th career win – and has tasted defeat just once, nine years ago against Floyd Mayweather.

Bivol will be the larger man in the ring but Canelo, who has recently talked up the possibility of challenging Usyk for his world heavyweight title, has shown repeatedly throughout his record-breaking career that size does not matter.

But if the Russian upsets the odds and gets the job done on Saturday night it would be among the biggest upsets in recent boxing history – and you suspect that neither Klitschko, nor the WBA themselves, would be all too happy about it.