Bivol back training in U.S., eyes top opponent

Light heavyweight world titleholder Dmitry Bivol has had a nice break since his one-sided unanimous decision over Joe Smith Jr. on March 9 in Verona, New York, and has returned to training this week in Los Angeles.

Bivol, who has made five title defenses, has no particular fight lined up but said his aim is to return to the ring in the fall against a top opponent.

Bivol (16-0, 11 KOs), 28, of Russia, would prefer a title unification fight in the deep 175-pound weight class, but he reiterated what he said around the fight with Smith: He also is willing to drop down to the 168-pound super middleweight division if he can get a shot at a world title there.

"It's time for me to unify at light heavyweight or fight one of the world champions at super middleweight," Bivol said. "I've received many accolades from the international media and fans, but most important for me is proving it in the ring that I am the best light heavyweight in the world."

Bivol has had few issues in his first five defenses, which have included the rout of Smith, other one-sided decisions over former world champion Jean Pascal and Isaac Chilemba, a 12th-round knockout of longtime contender Sullivan Barrera in a lopsided fight and a first-round knockout of Trent Broadhurst.

Bivol now is hoping to move on to a more significant fight.

"My team has had discussions with representatives with all the other belt holders at light heavyweight -- Sergey Kovalev, Artur Beterbiev and Oleksandr Gvozdyk -- and there has been no response for these title unification fights that the fans want to see," he said. "We're all very good fighters. Let's prove to the fans which one is best."

Kovalev, the biggest name in the division, is in negotiations to defend his title against middleweight world champion Canelo Alvarez, who would move up two divisions, on Sept. 14, so he is not looking at a Bivol fight.

Lineal champion Gvozdyk and Beterbiev, who are both signed to Top Rank and fight on ESPN, do not have fights lined up at the moment, but a unification fight between them is possible for the fall.

Bivol, although a broadcast free agent, has aligned himself with Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn and streaming service DAZN and could land a major fight if he moves down in weight.

"I have also said that I am interested in fighting Callum Smith and Gilberto Ramirez at 168 pounds, but never heard any response," Bivol said. "I can make super middleweight and would love the opportunity to fight for a world title in that division. If Canelo Alvarez wants a true challenge on Sept. 14, he can look no further and fight me at the super middleweight limit or light heavyweight. I am much more motivated by a challenge in fighting the best than material terms."

Smith is with Hearn and does not have a fall dance partner, although he has been mentioned as an outside possibility to face Alvarez. Ramirez, a former super middleweight world titlist, who also is signed to Top Rank, recently moved up to light heavyweight.

"Dmitry is ready to fight anyone at light heavyweight or super middleweight," manager Vadim Kornilov said. "Not too many people ever mention fighting Dmitry. Those that have didn't actually want the fight when we tried to start negotiations. We've also heard there may be a tournament for the four title holders, and we're very interested in that. It would be a very competitive tournament."

Kornilov also said Bivol would have been willing to fight interim light heavyweight titlist Marcus Browne, who is scheduled to defend his belt against Pascal on Aug. 3.

"Dmitry Bivol versus Marcus Browne was the mandated fight for the world title, but Browne's team asked for an exception and he decided to first see if he can keep up with a fighter that Dmitry has already beaten," Kornilov said. "Dmitry is all about legacy. He doesn't worry about anything as much as he does about leaving a major footprint in the history of the sport."