WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol made his choice and has signed with Matchroom boxing, giving DAZN another top free agent.
Bivol not only signed a co-promotional deal with the company led by Eddie Hearn, but already has his first title defense set. Bivol will defend his title against Joe Smith Jr. in March, but the specific date and venue will be revealed at a press conference in New York on January 18.
This won’t be Bivol’s first fight where Matchroom Boxing was be involved. Bivol’s first title defense, which took place in late 2017 after Bivol was elevated from interim champion to full champion, was on a Matchroom Boxing show in Monaco where he knocked out Trent Broadhurst in the first round. Since then, Bivol made three successful defenses throughout 2018, all taking place on HBO.
After Bivol’s last fight, a unanimous decision win over Jean Pascal in Atlantic City this past November, HBO’s boxing franchise shut down, leaving the champion as a free agent. Bivol was deciding between signing with DAZN or with ESPN, who has WBO champion Eleider Alvarez and WBC champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk fighting on its platform.
Smith, a 29-year-old native of Long Island, New York, famously defeated Bernard Hopkins in 2016 in what was Hopkins’ final boxing fight. Smith would go on to lose his next fight against Sullivan Barrera in the summer of 2017, but has since then bounced back with a first-round knockout victory over Melvin Russell this past June. Smith is currently ranked No. 8 by the WBA, No. 14 by the IBF and No. 9 by the WBO in their respective 175-pound rankings.