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.