Dmitry Bivol dominant but lackluster in retaining light heavyweight belt

Dmitry Bivol, right, did not give the fans much to cheer for Saturday, but his lackluster win over Issac Chilemba was dominant enough to maybe move him closer to a showdown with Sergey Kovalev. Noah K. Murray/USA TODAY Sports

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Dmitry Bivol's mission was twofold: retain his light heavyweight world title for the third time and continue to create more demand for a unification fight with main event star Sergey Kovalev.

Bivol did the first part with ease as he rolled past Isaac Chilemba on Saturday night in the Kovalev-Eleider "Storm" Alvarez co-feature at the Mark G. Etess Arena at the newly opened Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. However, although Bivol showed off his superior skills and won in dominant fashion, he did little to create more buzz for a Kovalev fight, even causing fans to boo the lack of action at times during the middle of the tedious fight -- and then he watched as the fight went down the drain when Alvarez knocked Kovalev out in the seventh round of an upset.

Still, Bivol won by shutout scores of 120-108 on scorecards from judges Eugene Grant and Ron McNair, and George Hill scored it 116-112. ESPN.com also scored the fight 120-108 for Bivol.

The victory was Bivol's second in a row against a well-known contender, as he impressively knocked out Sullivan Barrera in the 12th round on March 3 on another Kovalev-headlined show. The fight with Chilemba was Bivol's third in his past four bouts to come on a Kovalev undercard, as their seemingly inevitable showdown drew closer until the shocker in the main event.

The Kovalev camp said repeatedly they want the fight, whereas Bivol and his team felt he needed a little more experience and exposure.

"Chilemba is a good fighter and he had champion spirit tonight," Bivol said. "He is a strong fighter. I want to fight more good fighters. I don't know who my next opponent will be."

Bivol (14-0, 11 KOs), 27, of Russia, attacked Chilemba from the outset, driving him back with right hands and body shots. Chilemba (25-6-2, 10 KOs), 31, a Malawi native fighting out of South Africa who is trained by all-time great Roy Jones Jr., had little to offer except the occasional hook and jab that was short of its target.

But Bivol, who is very composed and deliberate, didn't keep up the fast pace, although he consistently scored with his jab and combinations to pile up points.

Though Bivol was in command all the way, he never stepped on the gas in an effort to get rid of Chilemba, who was outclassed.

There were a few good exchanges, including in the ninth round and 10th rounds, but they were few and far between.

According to CompuBox punch statistics, Bivol landed 154 of 447 shots (35 percent) and Chilemba landed 73 of 472 (16 percent).

Chilemba dropped to 1-4 in his past five fights, albeit each loss to a top opponent in Bivol, Alvarez, Kovalev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk. He is also 0-2 in world title fights, having lost a decision to Kovalev in 2016.

Douglin outpoints Alexander

Super middleweight Denis Douglin cruised to a one-sided decision against Vaughn Alexander in a mild upset. Douglin won 100-90, 99-91 and 99-91 to hand Alexander, the older brother of former two-division world titlist Devon Alexander, his first defeat.

Douglin (21-6, 13 KOs), 30, a Marlboro, New Jersey, native who has suffered losses to the likes of George Groves, David Benavidez, Anthony Dirrell and Jermell Charlo -- all of whom have won world titles -- was far busier and landed the cleaner punches to end his two-fight losing skid.

Alexander (12-1, 8 KOs), 32, of St. Louis, was fighting for the eighth time since he served 11 years of an 18-year prison sentence for armed robbery and the assault of a police officer before being released in 2016 and resuming his career.

The rest of the undercard

  • Middleweight prospect Meiirim Nursultanov (8-0, 7 KOs), who shares trainer Abror Tursunpulatov with Kovalev, made Jonathan Batista (17-15, 10 KOs), 33, of the Dominican Republic, quit after the second round. Nursultanov, 25, a Kazakhstan native based in Oxnard, California, dropped Batista with a body shot in the second round, and Batista quit when it was over.

  • Lightweight Karl Dargan (18-1, 9 KOs), 33, of Philadelphia, returned from a 3½-year layoff to easily outpoint Jonathan Perez (37-22, 29 KOs), 31, of Colombia. Dargan, trained by his cousin, the renowned Naazim Richardson, won 60-54 on all three scorecards. One-time prospect Dargan was fighting for the first time since his only loss, a 10-round decision in which he got knocked down by Tony Luis in January 2015. Perez lost his fourth fight in a row.

  • Junior middleweight Frank Galarza (20-2-2, 12 KOs), 32, of Brooklyn, New York, dropped Alex Durate (13-6-1, 10 KOs), 38, a New York-based Brazilian, twice in the second round for a knockout victory at 1 minute, 57 seconds. Galarza, who won his third fight in a row following back-to-back losses, dropped Durate twice with body shots, the second one for the full count from referee Eddie Claudio. Durate lost his fifth fight in a row by knockout.

  • Junior middleweight prospect Bakhram Murtazaliev (13-0, 11 KOs), 25, of Russia, blew away journey Fernando Carcamo (23-8, 18 KOs), 27, of Mexico, knocking him out in 41 seconds. Murtazaliev immediately rocked him, landed several clean head shots and then dropped him with a vicious left-right combination. Carcamo, a finalist in the ESPN Boxcino lightweight tournament in 2014 but fighting way above his best weight, was dazed and referee Claudio counted him out.

  • Junior middleweight prospect Madiyar Ashkeyev (10-0, 6 KOs), 29, a Kazakhstan native based in Oxnard, California, stopped Eduardo Flores (26-30-4, 15 KOs), 32, of Ecuador, in the fourth round. Ashkeyev, who trains in the same camp with fighters such as Kovalev and pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko, dominated Flores, who continually lost his mouthpiece. After Ashkeyev knocked it out for the fourth time, referee Shada Murdaugh waved off the fight at 50 seconds of the fourth round.

  • Welterweight Enriko Gogokhia (7-0, 3 KOs), 27, a southpaw from the Republic of Georgia fighting out of Los Angeles, got in six rounds of work in a shutout of Ronald Montes (18-10, 16 KOs), 32, of Colombia, in an action-free fight. Gogokhia won 60-54 on all three scorecards as Montes lost his third fight in a row.

  • Junior middleweight Ismael Villarreal (3-0, 0 KOs), 21, of Bronx, New York, won a unanimous decision over Kieron Hooks (3-1-1, 1 KO), 24, of Philadelphia, in an exciting fight. In the end, all three judges scored it 38-37 for Villarreal.