Every so often a supposed mismatch ends up being less of a mismatch than expected, in fact instead of a mismatch we get a Fight of the Year contender as the perceived under-dog fights as if their career depends on their performance.
That was the case tonight when Chinese fighter Can Xu (16-2, 2) [徐灿] played his part in a bout with Jesus M Rojas (26-3-2-1, 19), for the WBA "regular" Featherweight title. The bout was a thrilling, pulsating and action packed 12 round war from two men who's style gelled perfectly.
Rojas was expected to win with ease. Most had predicted him to walk through Xu, score an easy early victory and defend his title without any issues. It seemed Rojas also expected that as he put intense pressure on Xu from the open bell. Xu backed off, but unloaded combinations when there space to work with, whilst Rojas worked hard on the inside, trying to make the fight a war.
As the rounds went on Xu's confidence grew and Rojas became less and less intense. The first 5 rounds were insane, all action, incredible intensity. The 4th may well go down as one of the best rounds of the year. But from then on the pace slowed, Rojas seemed to be the one feeling the tempo, and round 6 was a fantastic one for Xu who seemed to begin backing Rojas up.
Xu would go on to back Rojas up again in rounds 7 and 8 as the tempo really seemed to effect Rojas, who was only able to keep a high intensity for a minute or so in a round, rather than the 3 minutes he was pressing in earlier rounds.
Those rounds going to the Chinese fighter made things very interesting, though Rojas did do much better in round 9 as he stopped the rot. That a momentary respite for the Puerto Rican champion as Xu charged again in the final 3 rounds, again pressing, forcing Rojas back and stopping the champion from getting his breath.
Through the 12 rounds there was clear momentum shifts, Rojas easily the dominant fighter in the early stages, Xu in charge in the later rounds. The amount of leather both threw was insane, and it seemed an incredibly close fight as we went to the judges.
The first score read was 118-110, a score that didn't reflect the fight, the second was 117-111, and that didn't reflect the fight, and the third was 116-112. The third card was arguably, at best. Surprisingly however they all went for Xu, who scored a major upset here with a unanimous decision.
Rojas should feel aggrieved by the scores. It was a close fight, it could have gone either way, but it was not a 9-3 or 10-2 type of fight.
For Chinese boxing history was made, with Xu being the first Chinese fighter to win a world title above Flyweight, even if it is only the "regular" title, and we suspect he will be returning to China to fight in front of a huge audience in his first defense. A rematch with Rojas would be very welcome, we suspect it'll be a much easier bout than that for the new champion!
A busy morning of action in Kuala Lumpur featured a number of title fights. The third of those was a WBA “interim” Featherweight title bout, as Filipino Jhack Tepora (22-0, 17) faced Mexican foe Edivaldo Ortega (26-2-1, 12). On paper this looked liked the potential show stealing, with both men being well matched on paper, both looking to make a statement on the global boxing scene and both looking to claim their first “world” title. Sadly for a bout that promised so much it did seem to fail to really reach the heights expected of it.
The first round was genuinely brilliant as Tepora seemed to try and make an immediate statement, chasing down Ortega and trying to stop him early on. Ortega managed to fire back and we got the opening round that we all expected, with both men unloading big shots. The second was quite similar, though Ortega managed to show more of his boxing and seemed to have a stronger second round as he landed more of his harder shots.
With Ortega using his boxing the action slowed. There were still moments, especially towards the end of rounds, but the fireworks seemed to slowly vanish as both men dropped their output and what action we did have became more and more sloppy.
There were certainly some good moments, and it was really close and competitive, but it seemed somewhat lacking in drama due to the pace and tempo slowing as much as it did. The slowdown in part was due to Tepora boxing really well off the back foot whilst Ortega had tasted the power and didn't feel like letting Tepora land hurtful counters. It was an understandable move from Ortega, to avoid the power, but did feel like Tepora could have done more.
Thankfully we did get drama in round 9 as Tepora's power showed it's self. The Filipino began to hold his feet more early in the round and Ortega seemed to see that as a chance to let his shots go. This finally gave us a return to the fireworks we had been waiting for since round 2. Ortega however ate a huge right uppercut that dropped him hard. The Mexican, with a badly swollen eye, returned to his feet, but looked like he was there for the taking and Tepora chased him before unloading power shots. The referee gave Ortega a chance to respond but after a number of clear shots waved off the bout.
For fans of Tepora the performance may not be memorable but he got the stoppage and claimed a career defining victory for the WBA interim Featherweight title, a win that will clearly put him on the boxing map. It comes just days after Vic Saludar claimed the WBO Minimumweight title and has put some momentum into Filipino boxing going forward.
As for Ortega this will be a hard loss to bounce back from and he really did get smashed by the power of Tepora in the 9th round.
In boxing the winner is usually the fighter who takes the plaudits, and rewards, however every so often a loser can be a winner, and that was seen last night when Filipino Genesis Servania (29-1, 12) came up short in when he challenged WBO Featherweight champion Oscar Valdez (23-0, 19), but enhanced his reputation in such a way that he went from relative unknown to a man who pushed one of the top young champions in sport, all the way.
The Filipino started slowly, pressing behind a tight guard and trying to counter Valdez. At the early stages it wasn't a great tactic for Servania, but it was a foundation for his performance as he managed to settle into the fight well. Although reserved early on Servania had moments when he threw to get Valdez's respect, and showed that he could take the much vaunted power of the Mexican.
In round 4the fight came alive as Servania surprisingly dropped Valdez, who was up quickly but had clearly found a new respect for the challenger. Valdez was then hurt again before the round was over, with Servania showing his power and his ability to hurt Valdez. Unfortunately for Servania he was dropped himself the following round, and was shakey as Valdez looked to finish the bout. The recovery of the Filipino was impressive and he ended the round throwing bombs back, despite clearly losing the round.
Rounds 6 and 7 saw Valdez fight well for the most part, but late charges by Servania in both rounds made things very interesting as it was the challenger who left the last memory, despite the more prolonged success from Valdez.
With the action heating up and both having scored knockdowns it fight like the fight still had a drama in it, and Valdez was the one seeking the finish, letting loose with significantly more shots in the middle rounds than the challenger, who pressured and pressed and countered well, but seemed to hold back just a touch. That all changed in the championship rounds as the two men traded bombs, unloading some great shots during a fantastic back and forth, especially in the final round.
By the final bell it seemed clear that Valdez had retained his title, and all the judges had it in favour of the Mexican, but given the performance of the challenger it's almost certain that he will get another shot at a title in the future. His stock rose dramatically with his loss, and in all honesty that can help a career out massively.
Despite being a real unknown in boxing circles prior to this weekend Japanese fighter Hiroshige Osawa (30-4-4, 19) [大沢 宏晋] managed to fight for the WBO Featherweight title on Saturday night as he took on unbeaten Mexican champion Oscar Valdez (21-0, 19).
Unfortunately for Osawa he was unable to shock the world with a performance to remember, though he did, in some ways, impress with his toughness as he took a steady and one-sided beating from Valdez, lasting much longer than many would have expected.
From the opening seconds it was clear that their was a gulf of difference between the two men and Valdez out boxed and out slugged Osawa who was only landing single shots when he had any success, whilst Valdez landed combinations at will, to both the head and body of Valdez.
It wasn't until round 4 that Valdez's much vaunted power really had Osawa in trouble, with the Japanese fighter being dropped, though he gritted his teeth and bounced up to continue the contest, which continued to remain one sided.
With Osawa trying to fight back, and never being in major trouble, the fight became a bit or a procession with Valdez even switching to southpaw to get some rounds in in the alternative stance, and even as a southpaw the Mexican landed at will.
In round 7 Osawa's toughness was too much, with the Japanese fighter taking bombs on the ropes from Valdez until the referee finally, mercifully, saved him.
For Osawa he got to fight for a world title at long last, something he likely didn't expect just a few years ago when the JBC suspended his license. Whilst he came up short no one can fault his bravery or courage. Sadly if anything some will question Valdez, and his struggle to put away Osawa, though he never was in trouble there were flaws exposed that will need to be sorted out before the Mexican takes on an elite level talent.
When unbeaten fighters collide we can get some great fights as both men put it all on the line to not just win the bout but the keep their perfect record intact. We saw one such fight earlier this year when Kosei Tanaka beat Ryuji Hara in a genuinely enthralling contest for the OPBF Minimumweight title. When a world title is at stake however things are even more interesting and there is so much on the line for both men.
We saw one such world title bout this past Saturday when IBF Featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich (19-0-1, 9) took on mandatory challenger Jayson Velez (22-0-1, 16) and we ended up with both men retaining their unbeaten records whilst we all tried to lift our jaws off the floor at one of the worst decisions of the year.
The Russian champion was defending the belt for the fourth time and early on it appeared that Velez had the style to beat him. For the first few rounds Velez simply out boxed Gradovich, he used exceptional movement and fought superbly behind a very busy jab that kept Gradovich at range and prevented the usually busy Gradovich from getting inside where he likes to work.
In round 3 things began to change as Velez's feet began to slow and he was gradually forced into the fight that Gradovich would have wanted. The Puerto Rican challenger probably did enough to take the round but it was probably the final round that Velez could have been given without a debate.
In round 4 Gradovich began to really close the distance, both traded body shots and both had their success in the bouts closest round. It was one that could have gone either though to us it seemed that Gradovich just did enough to take it as he began to turn the fight into his style of a fight. The Russian was cutting the distance, building on his success from the previous round and began to force Velez to trade shots. When trading Velez did have plenty of success of his own but was out-worked, out landed and out powered.
From round 5 to 11 Gradovich became more and more successful. His trademark engine was helping him to grind down his challenger who was game but out fought and came off second best in every exchange. It was to Velez's credit that he was fighting back but he was unable to ever establish the distance that had helped him to take the earlier rounds.
The action, for the most part in those Gradovich won rounds, was exciting and saw both men unloading a high volume of shots but sadly for Velez it was hard to see him winning any of them, or even taking a a share of an occasional round as his punches resembled arm punches and his head was snapped back time and time again.
Going into the final round it seemed clear that Velez was in a hole and would need a KO to win the title. His early work had long been forgotten and he seemed to know he needed something special to pull the bout out of the bag. Knowing he was down Velez really went for it in the final moments and seemed to unload everything he had at Gradovich who saw out the storm to hear the final bell.
It seemed a clear win for Gradovich who had swept much of the bout. At most we suspected Velez could have won 5 rounds, giving him the close 4th and the 12th, at an absolute push. In reality however we hadn't given him anything after the third round and had it a very clear 117-111 to Gradovich. The judges however threw their typical spanner into the works. One judge had it the same as us, one judge somehow found 6 rounds to give to Velez giving a 114-114 card whilst the third judge had a frankly ridiculous card of 115-113 to Velez, a truly shocking card that should see the judge dragged over the hot coals.
For Gradovich the key thing is that he retained his title and there is still a chance for him to get involved in major bouts with the likes of Nicholas Walters in 2016. For Velez the draw was an early Christmas present and whilst it's clear he's a talented fighter he was very lucky to escape with his unbeaten record.
It's a shame the judging has cast controversy over this bout which was, the scoring aside, a really enjoyable bout that saw both men fighting their heart out and we hope to see both men in action sooner rather than later, though not a rematch as some suggest. This wasn't close enough to actually warrant a rematch, even if it was a “draw”.
At the moment professional boxing seems to be going through a genuine transition and it appears that we are at the start of generation where fighters don't mess about padding records but instead the best are going to race to the top and stay there. We've already seen Naoya Inoue get to the top of the Light Flyweight division and we suspect he'll manage to become the #1 guy at Super Flyweight in the next 12 months. We've also seen Kosei Tanaka move to within a fight of a world title. Another man who deserves to be mentioned alongside those two is Ukrainian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko (3-1, 1).
Unlike the two Japanese fighters Lomachenko was regarded as one of the greatest amateur fighters of all time. He was pushed quickly by an American promoter and given huge attention by the boxing press in Europe and US. That attention helped him to tie the long standing record of Saensak Muangsurin in winning a world title in just his third professional bout.
In his fourth bout Lomachenko made the first defense of his title, the WBO Featherweight title, as he bamboozled, out boxed, out fought, out moved and just did as he wished with Thai veteran Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo (52-2, 33).
In the opening round it was clear the men were in completely different levels with Lomachenko doing as he wished against Chonlatarn who fought a very timid round. It was a start that suggested that Chonlatarn was afraid of Lomachenko's great amateur credentials and as a result it was a poor round to watch.
Thankfully, for those watching, Chonlatarn did up the work rate round after round and tried to make a fight of things. Sadly for the Thai however the more he opened up the more opportunities he gave to Lomachenko who danced around the ring, landed at will and did as he pleased whilst also getting some valuable ring time.
The ability of Lomachenko was really on show in round 4 as he put on an exhibition for the first 2 minutes of the round before dropping the teak tough Thai very late in round. The Thai, to his credit, recovered and saw out what was left of the round though it appeared that he was only in the fight for as long as Lomachenko wanted to carry him.
Having been dropped in round 4 it was great to see Chonlatarn on the front foot through rounds 5 and 6 though he failed to have much success in either round despite coming forward and pressuring the ultra-skilled Ukrainian fighter who showed his class with a sensational burst of punches late in the round 6.
With the bout under total control Lomachenko spent much of round 7 taunting and teasing Chonlatarn. It was an exhibition in show boating even if it did come at the expense of his offensive which went frustratingly quiet for a round. It seemed that Lomachenko had injured his left hand but he was still managing to put on a masterful display of pure boxing against an experienced and world class opponent.
Although Lomachenko was effectively down to one hand he was still managing to completely dominate the Thai and round 9 was a masterclass with Chonlatarn looking confused by what was coming at him. The same again applied in round 10 as Lomahcneko seemed to step on the gas slightly and back up the Thai who looked like he was completely frustrated by what was happening in the ring.
Whilst it would have been nice for the Ukrainian to have closed the show in the final two rounds what we got instead was just more supreme boxing from Lomachenko who did what he had been doing for several rounds and just dominated with the right hand whilst Chonlatarn did little more than hit air and look lost.
Sadly for those fans hoping to see the stoppage it was never likely when Lomachneko hurt his hand, which we think happened in round 6 or 7. What we got instead however was a masterclass in 1-handed boxing which both amazed and frustrated us. We were amazed by Lomachenko's ability to dominate a fight one handed whilst we were frustrated by knowing that with 2-hands he could have done so much more
The first of two major bouts this Saturday saw fireworks being launched almost from the off as Nonito Donaire (33-3, 21) found out he wasn't big enough, strong enough or powerful enough to compete with the best Featherweights on the planet. Unfortunately for Donaire one of those best Featherweights was Jamaican Nicholas Walters (25-0, 21), a man who inflicted the first stoppage loss on Donaire and claimed the WBA Featherweight super title in what appears to have been a bit of a "passing of the torch" type of result.
The bout started interestingly and the first round saw both landing some solid shots. Sadly for Donaire his best shots of the round merely seemed to bounce off the Jamaican fighter who looked so much bigger and stronger. Donaire was the faster man but was giving away so much natural strength and size that the size was hardly an advantage, especially given that Walters' jab was sharp from the off.
Although Walters had won the opening round Donaire managed to take the second round in style as he seriously hurt Walters towards the end of the round. A shot just after the bell seemed to leave Walters looking confused and lost as he got back to his corner and the minute break almost certainly saved the Jamaican from a knockdown. Unfortunately for Donaire that was his major opening and even that didn't come without him taking some punishment in return with the Filipino suffering a cut himself over his eye.
In round 3 it seemed that Donaire was trying to build on his success and looked fantastic early on as he landed several huge counters and looked as good as he did at his best. Unfortunately he couldn't keep that up for the round and his early success was neutralised late as Walters dropped him with his counter right hand and secured a 10-8 round. Donaire got up and and the two went to war in an exciting end to the round.
With both knowing they could hurt each other it seemed they both fought round 4 cautiously with Donaire backing up a lot whilst Walters landed a handful of jabs. It was a disappointing round given the action of rounds 2 and 3 but it seemed clear that Donaire knew he was up against it and was happy to do what he could to survive and hope for an opening. That opening however never came and in round 5 the action picked up again with the men standing toe-to-toe and hammering each other with the occasional bomb. At this point it seemed clear Donaire had no chance but to hope the he landed clear with many of his shots merely bouncing of Walters who was looking amazingly relaxed and strong on the inside.
Donaire's efforts were brave and part way through round 6 his face was showing serious signs of damage. His eyes were swelling and cut and he was beginning to take more and more hard shots whilst being backed up to the ropes. It was a round that was slipping away from the Filipino and he knew it as he attempted to fight back late in the round. That was a mistake and as the two traded shots he was made to pay, being dropped hard and heavy. The Filipino showed immense heart and bravery to recover to his feet but the referee was left with no option but to save the Filipino who was a beaten man.
After the bout both spoke highly of the other and it's clear there is serious respect between the two. Unfortunately for Donaire however this was a painful loss and clearly suggests that he needs to move down a weight if he's going to continue with his career. For Walters however this could set up a bout with Ukrainian sensation Vasyl Lomachenko in what would be a brilliant contest if Bob Arum, who promotes both, feels like making the contest.
We hope this isn't the end of Donaire but the way he was finished is the sort of finish that does send lesser fighters looking for other careers.
The long Macau card earlier today came to a close with the third successive Featherweight world title fight as South Africa's Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16) attempted to defend the WBA Featherweight "Super" title against popular Filipino Nonito Donaire (33-2, 21) and referee Luis Pabon.
Unfortunately what should have been a really good bout, and was actually warming up to be something special, was ended, like so many other fights, in disappointing, confusion and with more fans questioning the referee than actually celebrating what should have been a fantastic fight.
The fight started slowly with both men trying to take the counter puncher role. Although the round started slowly it started with a flash point that saw Donaire on the canvas with with blood coming from his eye. Apparently from a clash of heads.
The second round saw more clashes of heads as Donaire began to really complain about the cut. It was clear he was very uncomfortable with the cut and the blood and it seemed that every time Vetyeka landed a head shot Donaire was uncomfortable.
In round 3 Donaire clicked mentally and became desperate as he winged in huge shots left right and centre in an attempt to stop Vetyeka. The attack seemed to rock the champion but in round 4 the power of Donaire did tell as he dropped Vetyeka for the fights only official knockdown. It was great from Donaire who loading up on everything he threw but it seemed he though he needed a knockout to win, as if he knew the cut wasn't called a clash of heads from the referee in the first place.
With the bout warming up in rounds 3 and 4 the referee made the disgusting call to call off the fight ruling the cut to have been caused from a head butt, something he hadn't ruled at the point where the cut caused it. This left us with with a confusing ending though one that favoured Donaire who won the title via a highly, highly debatable technical decision.
Had the cut been ruled a head butt in the first round we'd have expected the fight to have been called off in round 3 as a no contest. Had the referee ruled that the cut had not come from a head clash then it should have been a TKO for Vetyeka
Luis Pabon, who officiated this contest, needs to be banned from officiating after this hilarious screw up that did very little to sell the sport to new fans. It wasn't his first major screw up in high profile bouts, having also botched numerous calls in Wladimir Klitschko's bout with Alexander Povetkin, and right now people need to be calling for his head.
To his credit Donaire did offer a rematch but it seems unlikely that we will actually see it next time out with Donaire more likely to face Nicholas Walters to unify the WBA title and the WBA "super" title and when you consider the cut will keep Donaire out for a few months it seems very unlikely we'll see Donaire Vs Vetyeka II.
(ED-Before someone asks if we dislike Donaire, we don't. We do however dislike awful officiating, suspicious endings and things that make us wonder why we follow the sport. We love the sport, we usually love these Macau cards which show case some fantastic talent to a whole new market and we love fights to come to conclusive endings. This bout gave some excitement when Donaire lets his hands go in rounds 3 and 4 but left us with a very, very sour taste in out mouths and a feeling of that the bout wasn't fought in an environment that even gave an indication of being a "fair fight".)
(Image courtesy of http://www.venetianmacao.com/)
One thing we do see a lot of in boxing is a fighter continuing on despite showing visible signs of being on the slide. We see it time and time again. A great fighter fights on as they are slowing, picking up injuries, and their skills are clearly diminishing. It appears everyone else can see it but them.
Whilst there was no sure fire evidence that Chris John (48-1-3, 22) was "shot" the WBA Featherweight "super" champion did not look amazing back in April when he retained his title with a technical draw against Satoshi Hosono. That fight, which saw John left with a nasty cut from a clash of heads saw John being tagged a few times early on by the Japanese "Bazooka" and many wondered what would have happened had that bout have continued.
Unfortunately for John there was no clash of heads to bail him out today as he took on South African Simpiwe Vetyeka (26-2, 16) and suffered the first loss of his illustrious and memorable career. Worse than just losing however, John was beaten into submission, broken down mentally and physically and finished the bout sat on his stool pondering the future.
The bout it's self was a slow burner. For 2 or 3 rounds very, very little happened. The two men, at times, seemed to perfectly neutralise one another. When one men threw the other blocked, and it looked like we were going to get one of those disappointing bouts where the strengths of each man cancel each other out. It was messy, it was uninteresting and there was very little in terms of clean effective punching. In all honesty the most interesting moments revolved around John twice falling to the canvas.
Round 4 saw the first really notable success from the South African though it was essentially drowned out by the crowd who attempted to sway the judges with a "Chris John" chant. The chant however did little to effect the men in the ring who continued to cancel each other out for the most part. By now though John was slowing. He had been able to land body shots earlier on but now there was very little in terms of clean action from the Indonesian.
We got our first talking point in round 5 as the bout flipped on it's head completely. John appeared to be knockdown around the mid way point of the round, the referee some how ruled a slip but from looking at John when he recovered it was clear that he was a man who was feeling the hurtful effects of something more than a slip. With John clearly hurt Vetyeka went in for the kill.
John would be sent to the canvas again in round 5 and again the referee ignored what was a clear knockdown. Quite what the referee was doing ignoring what looked like clear knockdowns was a mystery, though for John the referees actions didn't help as Vetyeka kept up the assault hurting John in a big way before the bell.
Bravely John came out for round 6 though he was still clearly feeling the ill effects of the previous round. He tried to fight back and tried to survive but again found himself on the canvas. Again it was ruled a slip from a referee who must have thought he was doing John a favour in some sick way. Only moments after getting back to his feet John was down again. This time, finally, there was a count given. Despite getting up and seeing the bell it was obvious that John's 34 year old body had effective said enough was enough. He retired his corner between rounds 6 and 7.
After seeing John remain in his corner an emotional Vetyeka celebrated, not as a man who had merely won a world title but as a man who had a great loss then won, not for himself but for his country, his people and his hero. For John this was a story of a loss of something material, his title. For Vetyeka however the fight was fought in dedication for the loss of the great Nelson Mandela, who had sadly passed away the previous night.
With Vetyeka now holding wins over the two premier names in Indonesian boxing, Daud Cino Yordan and Chris John, he may well need a new country to attack. With the WBA "super" title over his shoulder he'll likely have plenty of options on where to go. Fights with the likes of Nicholas Walters, Evgeny Gradovich or even Nonito Donaire would all hold intrigue and all be real possibilities.
Whilst Vetyeka has a host of options in front of him John's future doesn't look bright. At 34 this may well be his last bout, in fact from rounds 5 and 6 it really should be his last bout. He looked like he still had the speed and the skills in flashes but there was always something missing in this performance. It was like cheap imitation of man who had held some form of a world title for the better part of a decade.
We really hope John returns to Indonesia to a hero's welcome despite the loss. Then after a few days break hopefully he announces his retirement. It'd be awful to see him beaten again by a lesser fighter than Vetyeka, who we regard very highly. There is no shame in losing to Vetyeka, there is shame however in trying to deny that father time effects us all, even the greats like Chris John.
Note-For the picture we've used here, we've selected a younger Chris John, the one who really was one of the top Featherweights on the planet. Not the shadow of that man who fought today
There are some fighters in this sport that we, as a site, genuinely dislike. Something about them rubs us up the wrong way and really love tuning in in the hope of seeing them lose. This past Saturday saw one of those few fighters in action and thankfully we got to see them taking a bit of a beating.
Australian Billy “The Kid” Dib (36-3-0-1, 21), the former IBF Featherweight champion, is a fighter who has really disgusted us over the years. Starting back in 2009 when he punched Kanichi Yamaguchi who was down, Dib has had a bullseye on his back from us as a team.
Unfortunately not only was Dib excused of a DQ loss against Yamaguchi but he also seemed to have this aura of self importance. He was, in our eyes, a dirty, cheating fighter with a self inflated idea of being world class. He often talked about fighting world class opponents, such as Chris John, whilst fighting significantly less foes such as Italian non-puncher Alberto Servidei.
Thankfully Dib's world came crashing down to earth earlier this year as he was upset by Russian Evgeny Gradovich (18-0, 9) who claimed a scrappy decision over Dib.
Just 8 months on from their first meeting Gradovich and Dib fought for a second time, this time over in Macau as part of “The Clash in Cotai” card. This time there was to be no excuses, such as a Dib being a late replacement, there was to be no controversy and most telling this time there would be no suggestion of it being a bad night at the office for Dib.
The fight started on a somewhat even keel with Dib trying to use his boxing skills to neutralise the aggression and work rate of Gradovich. Although the Russian seemed to be winning the rounds they were competitive over the first 3 or 4 with neither man really stamping their authority on the action. Although the action was pretty give and take at times it was obvious that the tempo of the fight was being controlled somewhat by Gradovich who was picking his spots much better and landing the more memorable of the action.
With the pressure and the work rate of Gradovich making life uncomfortable for Dib it was obvious that the Australian needed to find a plan B if he was going to recapture the belt he had held earlier this year. Instead however Gradovich began to grow and grow in to the fight and by the end of round 6 it was becoming clear that Dib was being ground down. Although a knockdown, in the sixth, was only a flash knockdown against Dib it had summed up how the fight was going, Gradovich was simply landing too many for Dib to cope with.
The Russian, growing round after rounds, saw things go from good to better as he found a new gear in round 7 and continued to grind down Dib. The Australian, at times, was looking helpless as Gradovich's aggression, pressure and work rate began to really take their toll. Dib was unable to create space, unable to tie up and unable to force Gradovich to respect him, it was effectively only a matter of time.
Despite the horrible seventh round for Dib he did manage to see through round 8, although it was more a case of “surviving” the eighth rather than doing anything else. Dib was looking like a man who knew his fate. He wasn't just being beaten up by the punches which he was being forced to eat but was also being mentally broken up by a man who refused to give him a break. It had began to look like a bully beating up a helpless child and for us it was fantastic to see Dib being given the beaten he had long deserved.
Just over a minute into round 9 the referee had seen enough and saved Dib. The torment for the Australian had been enough, he had taken the punishment that he had been long deserving and finally knows what it's like to be beaten up by a genuine world class fighter.
What this fight showed, more so than their first meeting, was that Gradovich has improved a lot. He's maintained his high out put but appears to have added more sting on every shot, he's more selective in what he throws and most telling he believes in himself. He's no longer a fighter who will just throw and throw but is instead a man who will throw with the intention of hurting the opponent every shot. This new found confidence could well see Gradovich developing into a seriously devastating fighter.
The story we've been hearing is that Gradovich is in line to face Nonito Donaire next year, though we dare say that a fight with the Chris John-Simpiwe Vetyeka winner would actually be a much, much more interesting test. In fact if Gradovich fights the winner of that contest it also gives Donaire a chance to fight a genuine Featherweight in the interim.
If Top Rank head honcho Bob Arum feels like it, he could well organise a mini-tournament with his Featherweights and include the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko and Orlando Salido, who will be fighting each other early next year, as well as Donaire, Gradovich and even Wilfredo Vazquez Jr. Then again Arum has missed such opportunities in the past and this may be another pipe dream of fans as opposed to the promoter.
For Dib however this is surely the end of the cock-sure Australian at the world level. There really is little appeal in seeing him in action again especially following this contest which should, for once and for all, end his self delusion of being world class.
World Title Results
Whether you like them or not World Titles add prestige to any bout as a result we've included the results of world title bouts in this special section.