In his second-ever fight at the weight, Canelo had no answers for the superior movement and jab work of his Russian counterpart, losing a unanimous decision by 115-113 on all three of the judges’ scorecards.
Bivol, who came into the fight as the huge underdog against the four-division world champion, lost the first four rounds on the cards but pulled away from the challenger over the course of the second half of the fight. Using his four-inch reach advantage to the maximum, he overwhelmed his opponent with volume and straight jabs, giving the Mexican little to counter and circling around Canelo to prevent a pocket from forming.
The win, which was Bivol’s ninth defence of the WBA lightweight title he has held since 2017, takes his professional record to 20-0, with 11 of those wins having come by way of knockout.
For his part, Canelo was made to look flat, and when he did land on Bivol, it noticeably had less of a snap than when he knocked out former champion Sergey Kovalev in 2019, in his first fight at light heavyweight.
The lone spell of eye-catching success Alvarez managed in Las Vegas came in the 11th round, and had nothing to do with boxing: following an entanglement, he hoisted Bivol up on his shoulders, causing the referee to call a break in the action.
The undisputed super middleweight champion was gracious in defeat, acquiescing to Bivol’s superiority on the night. “I lost today and he won,” he said. “No excuses. That’s what happens in boxing, you win and lose. He’s a great fighter.”
It is only the second loss of his 61-fight professional career, the first in nine years since suffering defeat at the hands of Floyd Mayweather in 2013.
Canelo, who had been slated to fight long-time rival Gennady Golovkin for a third time following this bout, stated afterwards his desire to pursue an immediate rematch with Bivol instead.
“This doesn’t end in this way, I’m a very competitive person, I’ve got many years ahead of me and I’m gonna come back stronger,” he declared.