If Dmitry Bivol felt so strongly that he was being maligned by the World Boxing Council, the Kryzgsztan-born Russian native should have reached out to the sanctioning body and submitted a formal complaint, according to its president.
Last year, in response to Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine, the WBC set down a strict ruling in which it would refuse to sanction any fights in Russia or Belarus and rank any Russian or Belarusian fighter for the duration of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The WBC’s head, Mauricio Sulaiman, took matters further when he publicly declared that his organization would not be involved in a potential light heavyweight full-unification bout between Bivol and countryman Artur Beterbiev, who holds the WBC, WBA, and IBF titles, citing Bivol’s nationality.
Curiously, Sulaiman exempted Beterbiev, also a Russian, from his decree, on the basis that Beterbiev has Canadian citizenship and had lived in that country for more than a decade; Beterbiev lives and trains in Montreal.
In a recent interview from Las Vegas, Sulaiman seemed to suggest that there could have been an exception made for Bivol if Bivol had only reached out to him to address these issues. But Sulaiman said no effort from Bivol or his representatives was made.
“We have explained consistently several times that Bivol has to contact the WBC and put his case forward, explaining why the WBC should not consider him Russian,” Sulaiman told Boxing News. “Because we do not allow any boxing in Russia or Belarus, we don’t rank any boxers from Russia or Belarus and we don’t [give] any support [to] any activity of a WBC fight involving those two countries.
“He has never contacted the WBC for months. It’s very simple. If he believes he’s being mistreated and that we should have a different status [he should have reached out to us]—I’ve said it many times.”
Asked to respond to criticism that he is giving Beterbiev a pass, Sulaiman responded with his usual line.
“He’s been 15 years in Canada,” Sulaiman said. “He has a passport, boxing license from Canada. His kids were born in Canada. It’s a very different scenario.”
Even if the WBC made an exception for Bivol, it would likely have little bearing on seeing that matchup actually materialize. The larger issue is that both Bivol and Beterbiev are backed by rival promotional outfits; Bivol with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom, which exclusively showcases its fighter on the streaming platform DAZN, and Beterbiev with Top Rank, which has its own exclusive deal with ESPN.
Top Rank head Bob Arum has made his feelings clear about the required conditions for a Bivol-Beterbiev unification.
Beterbiev (19-0, 19 KOs) was supposed to defend his three 175-pound titles in August against mandatory challenger Calum Smith but he had to pull out because of a dental infection. Their fight has been rescheduled to Jan. 13.
Bivol (21-0, 11 KOs) currently does not currently have a fight scheduled. The last time he was in the ring was nearly a year ago, when he picked up a unanimous decision over Gilberto Ramirez.
Sean Nam is the author of Murder on Federal Street: Tyrone Everett, the Black Mafia, and the Last Golden Age of Philadelphia Boxing.