Coming into this Friday Night Fights main event at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, Billy “The Kid” Dib (35-2, 21 KOs) was a world champ of the “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” variety, only. After Friday, his people can’t even claim that.
Evgeny “The Mexican Russian” Gradovich (16-0, 8 KOs), trained by Robert Garcia, would outwork and outfight the reigning IBF featherweight titlist from Australia to take a close split decision that, really, should’ve been a fairly one-sided unanimous call.
Despite its ludicrous status as an IBF world title bout, Gradovich-Dib was actually a pretty good scrap between two fighters at a similar level of ability, but it was the Russian pug, fighting on just a few day’s notice, who earnestly battled his way to victory.
Always pushing forward and cutting through Dib’s arm punches and generally ineffectual movement, Gradovich scored the bigger and better shots throughout a fight that went from compelling to sloppy at times.
Both fighters would lose a point in round eight for holding as referee Eddie Claudio worked to maintain order. A cut on the left side of Dib’s head, caused by an accidental elbow, would also present itself, but wouldn’t affect the outcome of the bout.
At the end of twelve rounds, hearts sank and Teddy Atlas cleared his throat for another dose of FNF outrage when it was announced that the outcome was a split decision. However, the right fighter would win the bout, garnering scores of 114-112 and 114-112 against Don Ackerman’s disgusting 114-112 ruling in favor of Dib. The Boxing Tribune scored the bout 116-110 for Gradovich.
Realistically, Gradovich’s long-term chances of success at featherweight are limited. He’s a pedestrian talent with a nominal skill set in a very competitive, veteran division. As an IBF champ, now based in Southern Los Angeles, he’s working on borrowed time as a main stage player.
As for Dib, if his relationship with promoter 50 Cent continues after this defeat, the rapper will just have to get used to traveling to Australia for future bouts. Dib is not a world class fighter and will only have real success as a regional champ against hand-picked challengers and faded names.
In the co-feature, Willie Nelson (20-1-1, 12 KOs) would defend his NABF junior middleweight title against Michael Medina (26-4-2, 19 KOs) via crushing first-round TKO.
Fans didn’t learn much about the 25-year-old Nelson from this outing. A counter right hand at the midway point of the first round dropped Medina hard. The Mexican national would beat the count, but find himself back on the canvas seconds later, apparently hurting his ankle in the process.
Lucid, but unable to continue, Medina would find himself stopped, on a stretcher, and shipped off to the nearest hospital for revision.
Nelson, who was making the first defense of the belt he won against John Jackson last September, will have a long way to go before being truly worthy of inclusion at the upper levels of a jam-packed junior middleweight class, but solid wins like this can’t hurt his brand. (Insert labored Willie Nelson, musician, joke HERE)
In the televised time-fillers– Junior welterweight 50 Cent protege, Luis Oliveras (1-0, 1 KO) scored two knockdowns in the first round of his pro debut against Rafael Muñoz (1-2) en route to a TKO 1 win. Also, welterweight, Jimmy Williams (2-0, 1 KO) pitched a four-round shutout over Ray Younger (0-2), taking the bout by three scores of 40-36.