DMITRY BIVOL will face intense scrutiny both in and out of the ring when he performs on March 3 inside the Madison Square Garden basement. The rapidly rising Russian faces the most daunting test of his 12 fight career when opposing world class Cuba Sullivan Barrera. Also on the card is Sergey Kovalev, and he is likely to have some of his steely focus on his domestic rival as a potential clash between the pair continues to gather momentum.

Bivol’s rise to WBA champion has been a brutal one that has seen him destroy ten of his dozen opponents inside the scheduled distance. In Barrera, he faces a foe who is no stranger to operating at the most privileged level of the sport holding wins over Joe Smith Jnr, Karo Murat and also extending the godly Andre Ward the full distance in a losing effort. Despite briefly admitting that Barrera has numerous capable qualities, Bivol is quick to point to his own qualities, attributes that he’s certain will bring him victory.

“Every fighter should only think of himself,” reveals Bivol, catching a rare break from a gruelling training camp. “I think of myself as the best, and because of that, it makes me feel better and that I can be a winner. I move good, I have very fast hands and feet, plus I thrive on the pressure and responsibility that is placed on me. I have responsibilities towards my family, and also to my fans, and everything that happens in the ring on fight night comes back to me. This is a huge opportunity for me, fighting at such a place as Madison Square Garden, and I am very grateful for it.”

Occupying the New York spotlight and HBO cameras with Kovalev is something of a rehearsal for both fighters, with each competitor no doubt pledging their concentration on the immediate matter at hand before bumping heads with each other at the negotiating table. Kovalev, who regained the vacant WBO belt in November by destroying Vyacheslav Shabranskyy in two painful rounds, is piecing together the shattered fragments of his former self following last summer’s momentous stoppage loss to the aforementioned Ward. A meeting with Bivol, accompanied with victory, could go a long way to completing restoration, but against his compatriot, Kovalev would be facing someone who has been well aware of his barbaric exploits long before he became a prominent name amongst the boxing community.

“When I was young, very young, I went to Prague, and I watched Sergey Kovalev fight as an amateur,” reflects Bivol. “I looked at him and I watched him fight, and I said over and over to myself, “I can be just like him. I can be a champion.” He’s such a good mover, and he’s so strong. People look at Kovalev and they and they think he’s only “The Krusher” but he uses his legs so well. Everything that is good about him is all in his legs because that’s where his movement comes from, and he also gets his power from them too.”

With the monster-laden 175lbs league beginning to take some sort of order with the recent announcement that Haitian banger, Adonis Stevenson will defend his WBC gong in May against Badou Jack, Kovalev and Bivol will both be desperate to exert their own dominance over the light-heavyweight division. A compelling clash between the ferocious couple looks certain to strangle the attention of audiences far and wide, but at this moment, one that Bivol is revelling in, the loitering intent of a talented Barrera, a product of a boxing paradise, is all that the former amateur starlet can think about.

Dmitry Bivol

“As of now, I’m just happy that I’ve got this fight, and my team got me this fight. I appreciate Barrera for accepting this challenge next Saturday night. This is a dream and pleasure for me to be fighting on a card where Russia has two world champions in the same weight division that are going to go on one after the other. The fans will go home happy, especially the Russian fans, and then we will see what happens next. My job is to train and to believe in those close to me. I believe in my team, and I know they are all going to come together and make good things happen for me.”