Malik Zinad is getting a dream opportunity to fight for a world title against WBA light heavyweight champion Dmitry Bivol on Saturday night on the 5VS5 card in Riyadh.

Zinad (22-0, 16 KOs) comes in as a replacement opponent after IBF/WBC/WBO 175-lb champion Artur Beterbiev suffered a ruptured meniscus, leaving Bivol (22-0, 11 KOs) temporarily without an opponent for his match, live on DAZN PPV.

Bivol’s substitute, Zinad, is a tough one to take on short notice. Although he fights nothing like Beterbiev, he is still a difficult foe to fight without a full camp working on his style.

As promoter Eddie Heanr points out, this is a potential Cinderella story for the 30-year-old Zinad. He’s been pushing for an opportunity for a big fight for years, and now he’s getting his chance.

The hungry contender Zinad, who comes from Libya, can change his life financially if he wins because he would be the new WBA light heavyweight champion and would have the opportunity to either face Beterbiev for the undisputed title or meet Bivol in a lucrative rematch.

A Persistent Underdog

“This fight is a difficult one. Sometimes when a fight falls through, and a fighter is training for the biggest fight of their career, they’re probably a little bit deflated when that falls through, and you get Malik Zinad,” said promoter Eddie Hearn to the Matchroom vs. Queensberry 5v5 open workouts, talking about Dmitry Bivol now facing his replacement opponent Malik Zinad on Saturday instead of his originally scheduled fight against Artur Beterbiev.

Bivol might experience a letdown. He’s been training hard for the Beterbiev fight, and now he’s fighting the replacement, Zinad, with Fanfair. If Bivol isn’t motivated for this fight, he could lose.

Zinad looks healthier this week than Bivol, and you can tell that it’s an easier task for him to get down to 175 than it is for Dmitry. The champion, Bivol, looks haggard and badly fatigued as if he hasn’t slept in weeks.

“You don’t want to be deflated against somebody that has been dreaming of an opportunity like this and is ready to put everything into it,” said Hearn. “I like guys like this. Malik Zinad has been in my DMs for three or four years, just saying, ‘Please, I will fight anyone. Just give me the opportunity.’”

Bivol has got to be disappointed at not getting the fight against Beterbiev, and winding up with Zinad instead of one of the well-known contenders waiting for a world title shot. There was likely no chance to get one of the top light heavyweight contenders to step in as a last-minute replacement opponent because they’re not going to mess up their careers by taking on a technical fighter like Bivol without a full camp.

“You just saw him go to Australia and beat an undefeated fighter away from home in an eliminator for a world title,” said Hearn about Zinad. “He doesn’t care where he goes or where he fights. For him, this is an opportunity of a lifetime. I said to Dmitry, ‘You got to be switched on out there. Don’t just think this is an easy night’s work, a little warm-up before Beterbiev. These kinds of things can come crashing down real quick.’”

Bivol says he’s not overlooking Zinad, but he looks awful this week, and he might not be 100% ready for this fight. Zinada could pull off the upset against a deflated, exhausted Bivol if it goes down to energy and enthusiasm.

A Warning for Bivol

“Two guys 22-0. Dmitry, if he’s switched on, he wins this fight in style, but anything else, and he has a hard night’s work with this guy,” said Hearn. “Look at this scene in Riyadh. If you’re Zinad, you’re walking on air right now. If Zinad wins on Saturday night, he’s coming back to Riyadh season. He’s changing his life financially. He’s become world champion.”

It doesn’t get any better than this for Zinad. This is his Super Bowl, and he’s going to be ready to fight tooth & nail on Saturday night to send Bivol down to his first defeat.

“This guy has been floating around for a long time. Shane McGuigan trained him for a while as well. The amount of people that have said to me over the years, ‘Oh, I got this really good fighter. He’s called Malik Zinad.’ I looked a couple of times and thought, ‘What could we do with him?’

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