By Luis Sandoval
Billy Dib (35-2, 21KOs) made his return to the United States, the first since losing to Steven Luevano since 2008, proved to be disastrous as Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8KOs)pulled off a huge upset and defeated Dib (35-2, 21KOs) via a Split Decision with scores of 114-112 for Dib and 114-112 twice for Gradovich. The card took place at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
Gradovich who took this fight on a month’s notice fought determined and aggressive the whole night as he slowly overwhelmed Dib who was simply outworked for the most of the fight.
Dib started off well as he made sure he kept the fight in the center of the ring where he controlled the action and out boxed his Russian opponent for the first two rounds. The jab was Dib’s weapon of choice as it kept Gradovich honest and at bay but it wouldn’t last for long.
In the 3rd round, Gradovich began to close the distance as both fighters exchanged at close quarters giving us spurts of action with lots of clinching in between. Things were definitely rough on the inside as both men received a stern warning from the referee who called for the rough tactics to cease.
Gradovich is known as the “Mexican Russian” for having a similar style to Mexican fighters and he definitely fought like one as he continued to apply pressure on Dib while working whenever he got inside. In Round 4 Dib responded to his opponent’s aggression by firing back as both men exchanged furiously giving the crowd something to cheer about.
The momentum in the fight seemed to be changing as Gradovich had one of his best moments at the beginning of the 5th round as a straight left hand staggered Dib as he lost his balance and almost went down. Gradovich seemed to really find his stride as he continued to be busy and work while Dib began to use movement to ease some of the pressure. When they exchanged on the inside it was Dib who worked the body while Gradovich focused on the head.
In the 6th round, a gash was visible on the side of Dib’s head that was said to be caused by an elbow but it didn’t play a role in the outcome of the bout. Dib began to box a bit more as the Mexican Russian never let up on his attack. They fell into a pattern where they’d throw a few punches then fall into a clinch that never allowed for sustained action. The referee had seen enough and decided to deduct a point from Gradovich in the 8th round for holding. Just as Trainer Robert Garcia was in shock as he felt it was Dib who was initiating the holding, the referee also deducted a point from Dib just moments later for the same reason. It was an interesting moment in the fight as the referee tried to get both men to stop holding.
The fight continued to be rough but Gradovich began separating himself by continuing to attack and never letting his hands stop working. His work rate began to take its effect on Dib who tried to fight back but it was his Russian counterpart who was getting the best of the exchanges inside.
By the 10th round, Gradovich was having success putting his punches together and connecting with clean combinations on the champion. Dib fought back as best he could but he simply couldn’t stop Gradovich from coming forward or making him pay for doing so.
Gradovich finished the fight strongly in the 11th and 12th round as he snapped Dib’s head back with a left hand. Dib now bleeding and a bit weary looked like a defeated man at the end of 12 hard fought rounds.
While horrible decisions are nothing new to the sport, the judges got it right this time around as Gradovich captured his first world title with a tightly scored split decision victory.
The loss really hurts newly formed SMS Promotions which is headed by rapper turned promoter 50 Cent as they lost the only title his stable had. It’s definitely not the start to the year or to his promoting career that 50 wanted as Dib will have to go back to the drawing board after losing a fight he was favored to win.
As for Gradovich, his career soars as he captures a world title in only his 16th fight. 2012 Trainer of the Year Robert Garcia also adds yet another champion to his talented stable.
You can follow Luis Sandoval on Twitter @Truewest007. You can also tune in to The Boxing Lab, Boxingscene’s official audio show every Tuesday from 6-8PM PST with hosts Ernest Gabion, Luis Sandoval, and Ryan Burton.