By Jake Donovan
It’s been more than four years since Billy Dib fought outside of his native Australia, with that bout resulting in the lone loss of his career. That he dropped a decision to Steven Luevano wasn’t nearly as unforgivable as the non-effort put forth by the visiting fighter.
The stench of the fight still lingers in the minds of many whenever his name is mentioned, which these days have been quite often. Dib returns stateside – this time with a featherweight belt in tow – as he defends against Luis Franco on March 1 at Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
The bout marks his first since signing with 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions, and headlines a live telecast on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.
“I’m not just coming to win; I’m coming to make a statement,” vows Dib (35-1, 21KO), who is unbeaten in his last 15 fights. “I want to show everyone that I’m the best featherweight in the world. I’m confident that I’m going to go in there and knock Luis Franco out. Now this is basically my chance to showcase my style to the American fans. I have a new team and I’m focused on this opportunity. I’m knocking more opponents out and I’m confident in myself.”
Knockouts were sorely lacking during his past stretch in the states, or anywhere beyond home. Dib has previously fought seven times outside of Australia, with all seven fights going to the scorecards and a grand total of none suggesting he would amount to anything special.
Dib has since scored 10 knockouts in 15 fights following the Oct. ’08 loss to Luevano. The means in which he won a featherweight belt wasn’t along those lines, but did reflect a return to early career swagger as he scored a clear points win over Jorge Lacierva in their July ’11 vacant title fight.
The showdown with Franco (12-1, 7KO) marks the fourth defense of his title, and his first with 50 Cent. Dib was set to fight in December against Jayson Velez, but became one of several casualties in the well-publicized feud between 50 Cent and Floyd Mayweather that resulted in the disbanding of TMT Promotions without launching a single show.
The fighters originally signed by the already defunct company chose sides, with several – including Dib – sticking with the hip-hop superstar.
“Basically, 50 Cent was in touch with my management, my brother Emad,” says Dib, providing a backdrop of how he came to join the SMS family. “He was a gentleman. The deal was done over dinner. He made a couple of promises and lived up to them. March 1 at the MGM Grand, we get to fight on ESPN(2) and make a statement.”
Dib knows that looking good is just as important as winning, with the ramifications to extend far beyond March 1. While the Aussie travels nearly 10,000 miles for this bout, another road trip could be in his future if his high-profile promoter gets his way.
“We’re in communication with (longtime unbeaten featherweight titlist) Chris John and trying to make a fight,” 50 Cent - whose real name is Curtis Jackson - revealed. “We just have to go through the politics of it.”
First comes the present task at hand, on which Dib remains focused.
“Luis Franco is not someone I’m taking lightly. I know he’s only had 12 fights, but he’s had an extensive amateur career. He’s a seasoned fighter. It’s important for me to make a statement. This is the fight where I can announce to the world that Billy Dib has arrived.”