By: William Holmes
ESPN Friday Night Fights was broadcast from the Foxwoods Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut tonight and featured an IBF Featherweight title bout between champion Billy Dib and Evgeny Gradovich and a junior middleweight bout between Willie Nelson and Michael Medina.
Photo: Ed Diller/Dibella Entertainment
This is the second week in a row that ESPN has shown a legitimate title fight.
The first fight of the night was between Rafael Munoz (1-1) and Luis Olivares (0-0) in the junior welterweight division. Olivares wasted little time in exciting the crowd, as he was clearly the better technical boxer and threw much tighter punches. Olivares quickly took a step backwards and landed a clean left hook that knocked Munoz down. Munoz was able to get back to his feet, but was hurt by another left hook and then dropped by a two-punch combination.
Munoz was wobbly when he got back to his feet and the referee rightly waved off the fight. Luis Olivares wins his professional debut by a TKO victory at 1:38 of round one.
The next bout of the night was between Willie Nelson (19-1-1) and Michael Medina (26-3-2) in the junior middleweight division.
Nelson started off the first round by working his jab and Medina tried to work the body of Nelson’s tall frame. Nelson, however, landed a perfectly timed counter right hand off the ropes that crumbled Medina. Medina was able to get back to his feet, but Nelson followed it up with a two-punch combination that knocked Medina down again, and the referee called off the fight.
Willie Nelson continued the TKO parade with a first round stoppage at 2:00.
Due to the two quick first round knockouts, ESPN showed a welterweight bout between Raynard Younger (0-1) and Jimmy Williams (1-0).
Not every fight can be a barn-burner or end in a first round knockout, and in this bout only one fighter came to fight. Williams spent the first round chasing Younger around the ring, and the rest of the fight banging at his tight guard. Younger rarely threw a punch, and spent the entire fight in a defensive shell. It cost him the fight.
Jimmy Williams won the clear decision with scores of 40-36, 40-36, and 40-36.
The main event of the night was between Billy Dib (35-1) and Evgeny Gradovich (15-0) for the IBF Featherweight title. Billy Dib was led to the ring by his promoter 50 Cent, who rapped Dib’s walkout song live.
Bill Dib started the fight off strong with his jab and appeared to be controlling the pace of the fight early on. In the second round, Dib connected with a stiff lead right uppercut, but Gradovich gained more confidence as the fight wore on. In the third round, Gradovich bloodied the nose of Billy Dib, and was beginning to walk through his jabs and press forward. Dib’s face began to swell up in the fourth round, and a clean lead hand sent Dib stumbling backwards in the fifth.
Gradovich’s work rate improved as the fight wore on: he never stopped coming forward. Both Dib and Gradovich tied up excessively, and the referee deducted a point from both fighters in the eighth round. Dib was getting caught with clean punches from the ever-charging Gradovich and was stung with hard left hooks in the eleventh round.
Dib appeared to be been behind on the scorecards by the last round, and blood was streaming down his face from a cut over his right eye. Gradovich, to his credit, did not step off the gas pedal in the last round and continued to clock Dib with hard, crisp punches as he surged forward.
Luckily for fight fans, the judges scored the fight for the rightful winner–but only barely. The scores were 114-112 for Dib, 114-112 for Gradovich, and 114-112 for Gradovich.
Evgeny Gradovich is the new IBF Featherweight champion via a split decision.