ATLANTIC CITY — Dmitry Bivol’s talent was just too much for Jean Pascal’s grit Saturday night.
Bivol retained his World Boxing Association light-heavyweight championship with a 12-round, unanimous decision before a sparse-but-loud crowd at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Atlantic City.
Judges Lynn Carter (119-109), Henry Grant (117-111) and Carlos Ortiz (119-109) all favored Bivol (15-0, 11 KOs) by a wide margin, as did The Press (119-109).
“He used his experience and his power in this fight, and I used all my skills,” Bivol said. “Every time I shoot for a knockout, I try to show my boxing skills also.”
An announced crowd of 3,853 watched Bivol cement his claim as the best of the 175-pound champions.
Pascal (33-6-1, 20 KOs) had his moments, but not enough of them to hold off Bivol.
“It was a very good boxing event for us,” Hard Rock Vice President of Entertainment Bernie Dillon said. “The crowd was into it, and the fight was entertaining. Having these types of events at this time of year helps the entire city and casino industry.”
Although Bivol retained his title by a large margin, Pascal delivered a game performance in what was a fitting way to end HBO World Championship Boxing’s 45-year run.
While he was wiping off his makeup after the show, HBO analyst Jim Lampley was also wiping away tears.
There were times when Bivol appeared on the verge of ending the fight with a TKO or knockout. He hammered Pascal with crisp combinations and flurries that forced Pascal to retreat to the ropes on rubbery legs.
But rather than fold, Pascal doggedly fought back. He charged toward Bivol, throwing wild, arcing punches while cheering fans at Hard Rock Live Etess Arena chanted “Pascal, Pascal.”
“Jean showed who he is: a courageous guy,” Pascal’s trainer Stephan Larouche said. “He tried the best he could. Bivol was just too good for him.”
Bivol’s long-term goal is to unify the light-heavyweight titles by facing fellow champions Eleider Alvarez (World Boxing Organization), Artur Bidtrbiev (International Boxing Federation) and Adonis Stevenson (World Boxing Council).
Alvarez won the WBO crown at Hard Rock on Aug. 4 with a seventh-round knockout over former champion Sergey Kovalev. Hard Rock hoped to also host the Alvarez-Kovalev rematch scheduled for Feb. 2, but the bout is headed to the Ford Center — the Dallas Cowboys’ practice facility — in Frisco, Texas. It will be televised on ESPN.
“I believe that I am the best and that I can beat Alvarez,” Bivol said. “I am ready to fight anyone in the division. Whoever they want me to fight, I will fight.”
In the co-feature, Uzbekistan super-bantamweight Murodjon Akhamdaliev (5-0, 4 KOs), a 2016 Olympic bronze medalist, punished Isaac Zarate (16-4-3, 2 KOs), of San Pedro, California, en route to a ninth-round TKO. Referee Eric Dali mercifully stopped the bout at one minute, 17 seconds.
The best fight of the undercard saw Uzbekistan super-welterweight Israil Madrimov (1-0, 1 KO) make his pro debut with a sixth-round TKO over rugged Mexican Vladimir Hernandez (10-3, 6 KOs) in a bloody slugfest.
In other bouts, Russian heavyweights Evegeny Tishchenko (3-0, 2 KOs) and Sergey Kuzmin (14-0, 11 KOs) earned convincing victories. Tishchenko, a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, opened the show with a second-round knockout over Mexico’s Christian Mariscal (11-2, 5 KOs). Russian heavyweight Sergey Kuzmin (14-0, 11 KOs) overpowered San Francisco’s Laron Mitchell (16-2, 14 KOs) en route to a sixth-round TKO.
Those were among a bunch of early endings. Hawaiian welterweight Logan Yoon (14-0, 11 KOs) earned a fifth-round TKO over Uganda’s Hamzah Sempewo (12-11, 6 KOs). Uzbekistan welterweight Shakhram Giyasov (6-0, 5 KOs) stopped Mexico’s Miguel Zamudio (41-12-1, 25 KOs) in the first round via TKO.
Only one undercard bout went the distance. Philadelphia lightweight Karl Dargan (19-1, 9 KOs) took an eight-round, unanimous decision over Mexico’s Moises Delgadillio (17-18-2, 9 KOs).