By Keith Idec
Billy Dib hopes this trip to Connecticut produces a better result than the last time he traveled there for a bout broadcast by ESPN2.
Australia’s Dib (35-2, 21 KOs, 1 NC) will return to the ring Friday night for the first time since he lost the IBF featherweight title to Russian underdog Evgeny Gradovich (16-0, 8 KOs) on March 1 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Conn. He’ll meet Mike Oliver (25-3, 8 KOs, 1 NC), a Hartford native, in a 10-round featherweight fight ESPN2 will televise from the Connecticut Convention Center.
“I know [Oliver] was a great amateur champion who will enjoy fighting in front of his hometown fans,” said Dib, who’s represented by rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s SMS Promotions. “He’s a crafty southpaw. People are going to see a rejuvenated Billy Dib, an aggressive fighter who is coming to fight Oliver. I was shown a lot of love and respect in my last fight in America and I will return that love with a devastating performance and knockout victory.”
The 33-year-old Oliver once was a highly regarded prospect, but he has been knocked out in three of his past eight fights and hasn’t fought since former featherweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez (33-3, 30 KOs) stopped him in the second round of their October 2011 fight in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Oliver’s long layoff, combined with his lack of power and age, makes him a relatively safe foe for Dib, 27, in his first fight since his grueling slugfest against Gradovich, who won their 12-round bout by split decision (114-112, 112-114, 112-114). If Dib defeats Oliver, he’ll head toward a contractually mandated rematch against Gradovich sometime later this year.
The 26-year-old Gradovich must also successfully make a mandatory defense against Argentina’s Mauricio Javier Munoz (26-3, 12 KOs) on July 27 in Macau, China, to secure a second bout with Dib.
“I fought the wrong fight and paid the ultimate penalty,” Dib said of his loss to Gradovich, his first defeat in 4½ years. “It was really hard for me to lose my IBF belt, which meant so much to me, but the great news is I know I can win it back. I have to give Gradovich credit for his performance, but it’ll be a different outcome in the rematch. I will make a statement in this fight to let world featherweight champions know Billy Dib is still here.”
The Dib-Oliver encounter will open ESPN2’s doubleheader at 9 p.m. ET. Undefeated light heavyweight Eleider Alvarez (12-0, 8 KOs), a Montreal resident raised in Colombia, is scheduled to battle veteran Allan Green (32-4, 22 KOs), of Tulsa, Okla., in the 10-round main event.
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.