One of the best kept secrets in boxing, late replacement Evgeny Gradovich (15-0, 8 KOs), will be a live underdog on March 1 as he challenges International Boxing Federation (IBF) Featherweight Champion Billy “The Kid” Dib (35-1-0-1NC, 21 KOs), in the 12-round main event on ESPN Friday Night Fights, co-promoted by DiBella Entertainment and 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions, airing live at 9 p.m. ET from the MGM Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut.
In the 10-round ESPN Friday Night Fights co-feature, North American Boxing Federation (NABF) super welterweight champion Willie “The Great” Nelson (19-1-1, 11 KOs) makes his first title defense against Michael “El Magnifico” Medina (26-3-2, 19 KOs). The Nelson-Medina fight is being promoted in association with Rumble Time Promotions.
Australia-native Dib, who is promoted by hip-hop superstar 50 Cent, was originally supposed to fight Luis Franco who unexpectedly withdrew from the title fight. Gradovich immediately accepted the challenge without any reservations. “I train most of the time and I’m always in shape,” Gradovich said. “To fight for a world title in only my 16th pro fight is quick, but I have good experience and this is a great opportunity for me.”
Gradovich was discovered by rising Russian manager Egis Klimas, who first heard about his latest star from his most well known boxer, world light heavyweight title contender Sergei Kovalev. “Evgeny had more than 150 amateur fights and he was a member of the Russian National Team,” Klimas explained. “I went with Don Turner to scout him at the 2009 Russian National Championships. Evgeny lost but Don said that he was really good DBE and to sign him if I could. All of my Russian fighters are trained in North Carolina by Don (19 world champions) when they first come to America.
“I didn’t build up his record. I had him fight opponents with equal records. If Evgeny was 5-0, he fought a guy with a similar record and so forth as he developed. Gradovich is a punching machine. He’s going to pressure his opponent and throw a lot of punches, especially in good combinations. Being a late replacement won’t be a problem. He’ll have five weeks of training in Oxnard (CA) with Robert Garcia for this fight and he never blows up in weight between fights like other guys. We’re not going to Foxwoods to meet 50 Cent; we’re coming to take Dib’s world title belt back with us.”
Called the Mexican-Russian by other fighters in his gym because of their respect for tough style of fighting, Gradovich is living the American dream: promoted by Top Rank, managed by trusted fellow countryman Klimas, trained by Garcia, and fighting for the world title in only his 16th pro fight. “Yes, I am,” he agreed. “I like this country a lot. I wouldn’t be fighting for the world title now if I had stayed in Russia. Boxing is difficult in Russia but you can move forward in America. I have a good team here that helps motivate me. I’ve been working with Robert Garcia, who trains a lot of world-class athletes, for the past year and I think he’s the best trainer in boxing.”
Gradovich reports that Klimas, Kovalev and Turner will all be supporting him at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods on March 1.