By Cliff Rold
Billy Dib (36-2, 21 KO), of Sydney, Australia, rebounded from his title loss to Evgeny Gradovich in March and lined himself up for a possible rematch. The 27-year old former IBF Featherweight titlist overcame a pair of point deductions and a spirited effort from 33-year old Mike Oliver (25-4, 8 KO) to take a decision win Friday night at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford, Connecticut.
It was the first time Oliver has lost in his hometown and Oliver’s first loss by decision. Dib came into the bout one pound over the division limit at 127, Oliver at 124. The referee was Mike Ortega.
Oliver, who hadn’t fought since an October 2011 second round loss to Juan Manuel Lopez, got off to an energetic start in round one and stayed steady as the fifth dug into the trenches. With both men working in close quarters, often with ample grappling, Oliver found himself with an early scoring advantage.
It was painfully achieved.
While neither shot looked intentional, Dib lost points in the second and third rounds for low blows without warning from referee Mike Ortega. The first low blow seemed to be the worst of them, Oliver lying on the ground for a moment while his legs twitched. He recovered in time for the next round.
Still doing his best, Oliver shimmied his shoulders and showed off for the crowd in the fight’s fifth round but the grind of the bout began to wear. Dib, coming forward, was on top of Oliver consistently and kept his man pinned near the ropes. As the second half of the bout developed, it was Dib controlling the pace and working while Oliver fought in spots. Dib’s left and rights echoed off the body.
With two rounds to go, the early point deductions still hung over the encounter and Oliver seemed likely to still be in the fight. The pace favored Dib by then and he continued to control it in the ninth. With three minutes to go, Oliver’s corner exhorted him to dig deep.
Dib began the tenth busting Oliver with a counter right down the pipe. Oliver responded, digging in short hooks and uppercuts while Dib kept on whacking away at the flanks. Tired from a long, physical fight, both men plugged away for down the stretch as they sought to make a case for the judges.
Dib’s case ended up the stronger of the two. One judge ruled the fight a draw at 94-94 but was overruled by a pair of too wide 96-92 scores.
The card was originally to be headlined by a Light Heavyweight clash featuring former Super Middleweight title challenger Allan Green. Green dramatically missed weight on Thursday and succumbed to food poisoning on Friday to move Dib-Oliver into the main event. The opening left room for a televised look at a promising Jr. Middleweight prospect.
20-year old Emmanuel De Jesus (5-0, 4 KO), 150, of Canovanas, Puerto Rico, scored a wicked knockdown with a left in the round two but would end up going the distance for the first time, earning a unanimous decision over four rounds versus 27-year old Rikardo Smith (6-4, 1 KO), 148 ½, of Kissimmee, Florida. De Jesus rode the knockdown to scores of 40-35 and 39-36 twice. The referee was Danny Schiavone.
The televised opener featured a former U.S. National Amateur champion keeping his undefeated record but getting some quality rounds along the way.
26-year old Lightweight Mark Davis (17-0, 5 KO), 135, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, made his first start since November 2011 a successful one, earning a unanimous decision in eight rounds over rugged 35-year old Nigerian Robert Osiobe (14-6-4, 6 KO), 134 ½, of Las Vegas, Nevada. Davis built an early lead but the physicality of Osiobe created opportunities and forced Davis to work over the second half. Davis received scores of 77-75 and 78-74 twice.
The referee was Danny Schiavone. Osiobe sees a modest three fight winning streak snapped.
The contest was televised in the U.S. on ESPN2 as part of its “Friday Night Fights” series, promoted by SMS Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com