For better or worse, boxing has it’s first bridgerweight titleholder.

Oscar Rivas, a longtime heavyweight contender, overcame a spirited effort from Ryan Rozicki to win a unanimous decision and the new WBC belt at Olympia Theatre in Montreal.

The weight class, with a limit of 224 pounds, was established to cater to fighters too big for the cruiserweight division (200-pound limit) and too small for heavyweight behemoths like Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua.

Rivas, who weighed in at 222¼, was expected to fight fellow small heavyweight Bryant Jennings but Jennings couldn’t enter Canada because he’s not vaccinated against the coronavirus. In stepped Rozicki, who has fought as a cruiserweight in his brief career. He weighed only 203.

Still, the Nova Scotian turned what many thought was a mismatch into a competitive fight.

Rivas (28-1, 19 KOs) and Rozicki (13-1, 13 KOs) fought toe-to-toe almost the entire bout, the only place in which the underdog had a chance to win the fight because of Rivas’ advantages in ability and experience.

Rozicki landed his share of eye-catching shots during brutal inside work and proved to be durable against his much bigger opponent. However, Rivas, quicker and more accurate, got the better of most exchanges and landed more clean shots.

Plus, Rivas, who created more space to throw punches in the final few rounds, was particularly effective down the stretch.

The scores were 116-111, 115-112 and 115-112.

Rivas, who stopped Jennings in the 12th round in January 2019 and was competitive in a decision loss to Dillian Whyte six months later, reportedly still dreams of winning a heavyweight belt.

However, after Saturday, he can now call himself a world titleholder.

Meanwhile, Rozicki probably improved his stock by performing better than expected. He almost certainly will return to cruiserweight, where he now should get important opportunities.

 

 



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