IBF featherweight champion Evgeny Gradovich (17-0) had almost no problem defeating Mauricio Munoz (26-4) on Saturday night at Cotai Arena, Venetian Resort in Macao, China.
He outpointed Munoz on all three judges' scorecards (Adalaide Byrd 120-108, Michael Ancona 119-109, Jerry Jakubco 119-109, per BoxRec) to earn the unanimous-decision win in his first defense of the title. The fact that this fight didn't end in a stoppage is more a testament to Munoz's toughness than any Gradovich deficiency.
The champion's attack produced swelling over both of Munoz's eyes and left no doubt who the better man was.
Munoz wasn't exactly considered a highly touted featherweight, though. He came into the bout with a solid record, but he hadn't defeated any notable fighters prior to Saturday's loss to Gradovich.
In his only other shot at a world title, Munoz was stopped in the ninth round by Toshiaki Nishioka in 2011.
Gradovich continues to grab attention after taking Billy Dib's IBF crown in a split decision in his last fight. He'll need to up the ante in regard to level of competition to gain more respect, but the 26-year-old late bloomer continues to win over fans with his exciting style.
Although he holds a championship, this was only his second fight of 10 rounds or more in his career. Trainer Robert Garcia and Top Rank have been forced to fast track him because of his age, but so far, the results have been good.
Top Rank is seemingly all in with their support of Gradovich. Two of the stable's biggest stars, Brandon Rios and Mikey Garcia, were out to support the featherweight champion.
Is Gradovich ready for a top-10 featherweight now? It seems like a peculiar question to ask, considering he's a world champion, but his presence in the sport is a bit of an oxymoron.
He's only had 17 fights and is undefeated, but he's 26 years old and a world champion. Some of the facts suggest things should be taken slow with him, but the rest says he has to be ready to take on the best right now.
One thing is for sure: Gradovich has options.
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